Derry City play Finn Harps at the Ryan McBride Brandywell Stadium (kick-off 7.45 p.m.) in the first of two North West derbies at the venue within the space of four days.
The Foylesiders’ performances have been holding up well but results haven’t been too impressive in recent weeks – Declan Devine’s men are winless in their last five league matches.
A 2-0 home win over Cork City on April 29th was the Candystripes last league win.
Derry still sit in fourth place but Kevin Toner’s goal at Richmond Park on Monday night saw St. Pat’s jump to within a point of the Brandywell boys.
“In the main we have played fairly well in most of those games, and anyone who was at Richmond Park on Tuesday night will have seen that we certainly didn’t deserve to come away with nothing,” is Declan Devine’s response to his charges’ most recent reverse.
“It’s a very tough league we’re in so we don’t dwell on results- win, lose or draw because there’s always another big game coming up. That’s obviously the case again now with Finn Harps in town this weekend.”
Devine does not underestimate the scale of the challenge presented by their local rivals, who have been on an improved run.
“I’ve said before that I have never been involved in an easy match against them, either as a player or a manager, and I don’t expect that to change this week.”
With the EA Sports Cup quarter-final between the same sides coming up on Monday, there should be huge interest in this footballing hotbed. “Hopefully we’ll have our supporters out in numbers as that always gives the players a real lift.”
There’s been an upsurge in Finn Harps’ fortunes in recent weeks and the Ballybofey men has moved up to ninth place in the table after an unbeaten run of two wins and two draws, which admittedly did come to an end with a 3-0 defeat to high flying Shamrock Rovers on Momday.
Speaking ahead of the game, Harps' manager Ollie Horgan was under no illusions about the task facing his side.
“Look we’re disappointed in the manner we lost to Shamrock Rovers on Monday night in Ballybofey, but the players are up again for the challenge that we will face against Derry.
“They are coming off the back of a draw and a defeat, so everyone in their squad will be under pressure to deliver a win against us. We did ok against them at Finn Park earlier in the season but still ended up losing 3-2.
“Derry is a good side going forward and will probably be disappointed not to have got at least a draw out of the Pat’s game on Tuesday night. We have a quite a few injuries at the moment but that’s part and parcel of football. It’s an opportunity again for other lads to stake a claim for starting places on the team.”
Harps are plagued by injuries but Sean Boyd, who was precluded from lining up against Shamrock Rovers due to the terms of his loan deal from the Hoops, will return.
Boyd scored the winner against Waterford last week as Harps recorded back to back victories for the first time since last August. That victory coupled with the win over UCD (Horgan’s men’s first three-pointer of the season) demonstrates that the Finn Harps’ graph is on the rise.
Referee: Tomas Connolly
A crowd in excess of 2,000 witnessed the side’s last league clash. That was in Finn Park at the beginning of April.
Harps had Colm Deasy sent off in the first half but it took two late goals by top scorer David Parkhouse to see Derry home 3-2.
Finn Harps last win in Derry came in April 2017 when goals in either half by BJ Banda and Michael Funston gave the Donegal men a 2-0 victory.
Derry City 4/9; Draw 3/1; Finn Harps 6/1.
Derry City 2 – 1 Finn Harps
Injured: Michael McCrudden, Patrick McLean.
Doubtful: Darren Cole.
Injured: Harry Ascroft, Gareth Harkin, Mark Timlin, Ciaran Gallagher, Michael Gallagher, John Kavanagh.
Doubtful: Raffaele Cretaro.