Finn Harps will be hoping to kickstart their SSE Airtricity Premier Division season after the midseason break as they welcome Sligo Rovers to Ballybofey for the Northwest derby on Friday evening (kick-off 8pm).
Finn Harps will be hoping to bring to an end a run of six defeats in a row (five league losses and a cup defeat) when Sligo Rovers come visiting. Harps last points came on the 17th May when they beat Waterford by three goals to two thanks to a 90th minute winner by Sean Boyd.
Manager Ollie Horgan knows how tough a challenge Sligo Rovers will pose but his team is ready to fight for every point in the remaining 14 fixtures.
“Sligo have had a very good run of results over the last two months. We have a big challenge ahead of us tomorrow night but we’re ready to take a cut off it and see where that takes us.
“We need to start picking up points because are now just 14 games left. UCD are ahead on goal difference but have three games less played so our players know the scale of the challenge that is ahead of them and that starts tomorrow night,” Horgan told finnharps.ie.
Horgan will have to plan without the services of John Kavanagh, Ciaran Gallagher and Michael Gallagher but the Galwegian has no suspensions to deal with.
Sligo Rovers come into this game having only lost once in their last ten games however that includes six draws and only three wins. The Bit O’Red sit in sixth place in the league table but only five points off fourth with a game in hand.
Talking to sligorovers.com, Coach Liam Buckley was happy with how the midseason break went for his squad.
“We gave the players a programme for the short time off, we are happy with how that went. The lads had a week off but on three of the days they had to do individual training which was monitored. It was a good balance to give that bit of rest but maintain what we have build-up.
“They were back in on Monday then so we’ve had a good week together. I think the break was welcome, even just from a mental point of view as there has been a lot of training and a lot of games and sometimes you just need a refresh.”
The break also allowed Buckley’s side recover from injury. Heading into Friday evenings’ game Sligo will be without Regan Donelon (hamstring) while Daryl Fordyce (Achilles) is doubt and will undergo a late test prior to the game.
“We also were down a lot of players. You could see that as the Cork game ended that we were low on numbers and thankfully Dante has come back okay, Johnny Dunleavy has been training all week and Niall Morahan was with the Republic of Ireland Under-19s this week so he’s fine too.
“Regan still isn’t quite right and Daryl has a niggle which we’ll look at up there.”
The Bit O’Red manager knows this derby game will be a tough battle if previous encounters are anything to go by but believes his side are showing steady improvement as the season progresses.
“The win we had in Ballybofey was very hard fought and in The Showgrounds it was almost the last kick of the game not to lose so we know what we’re facing.
“It’s going to be a real battle, and in Finn Park, every team, especially outside the top two, has it tough. From our point of view we have had a good preparation and we want to hit the ground running for the rest of the season.
“I think there is improvement in the group, they’ve worked extremely hard for the first part of the season and I have no doubt they will do that again. We want to kick on and see where it can take us.”
Referee: Tomas Connolly
The sides have met twice this season in the league; a 1-1 draw in Ballybofey and a 2-1 win for Sligo Rovers in the Showgrounds. The sides also met in the League Cup with Harps beating the Bit O’Red 2-1 after extra-time.
Neither side have been prolific in front of goal. Harps have only managed 18 goals in 22 games with Sligo Rovers recording 20 in 21 games. The difference however is Harps have conceded 48 while Sligo have seen 27 goals scored against them.
Romeo Parkes is Sligo Rovers’ top scorer so far this season with six. Mikey Place and Caolan McAleer are Harps top scorers with three goals each.
Finn Harps 13/5; Draw 23/10; Sligo Rovers 11/10
Injured: John Kavanagh, Ciaran Gallagher, Michael Gallagher.
Injured: Regan Donelon.
Doubtful: Daryl Fordyce.