Derry City 4 Finn Harps 2
By Chris McNulty at The Vale Centre, Greysteel
FINN Harps got another reminder of the size of the gap between them and those sides on the upper rungs of the League of Ireland’s ladder this afternoon.
Roddy Collins’ Derry City scored a comfortable win over Harps at Greysteel’s impressive Vale Centre complex, racing into a four-goal lead by the 54th minute in a game bossed by the Candystripes.
A raft of substitutions by City did leave the door ajar for new Harps signing Ruairi Keating to score a second-half brace to bring some respectability back to the scoreboard for Harps.
Mark Stewart, Rory Patterson and Patrick McEleney were on target for City, with Ciaran Coll heading in an own goal.
It was a make-shift Harps line-up in many ways with Shaun McGowan forming a partnership with Coll at the heart of the defence and the likes of Kevin McHugh, Sean McCarron, Keith Cowan, Damien McNulty, Packie Mailey and James Doherty among those absent from the squad.
Harps trailed three-nil at half-time and indeed they could reflect upon a game where they were perhaps thankful that it hadn’t turned into a rout.
The performance of goalkeeper Shaun Patton, who played the entire game, was among the bright points, with the Letterkenny teenager making a string of saves, particularly during the second half, to keep the score down.
“The first forty-five minutes, against Derry’s first team, was a lesson,” Horgan admitted afterwards.
“We were off the pace. We got into it, but we made some atrocious mistakes.
“We made mistakes in the second half that we got away with it, but in the first half, with the quality they had out, we weren’t going to get away with them. You can’t get away with those mistakes.
“Any team would have punished the mistakes we made.
“Some lads are struggling and were out on their feet for the last ten minutes, but getting them ninety minutes under their belt is a positive.”
Derry had something very closely resembling their first XI and they hit the front after just 25 seconds when Stewart slotted home with the Harps rearguard at sea.
Stewart turned provider in the 21st minute, after speeding past Tommy Bonnar to swing in a teasing cross that was put through his own goal by Coll’s header.
Patterson had an early effort saved by Patton and the Strabane man should have done better at the back post soon after before he came even closer with a free kick that crept just the wrong side of the target.
Patterson wasn’t having much luck and the striker missed a penalty in the 28th minute after he’d been brought down by the off-form McGowan just inside the box.
Barry McNamee flicked a header wide after connecting with a cross from Roddy Collins jnr, but Derry made it three when Patterson finally steered past Patton in the 42nd minute.
Nine minutes into the second half, Derry bagged a fourth as McEleney brilliantly beat Patton with a neat finish.
Harps pulled one back when persistence paid off for Keating, as he prised possession before finishing low past ex-Harps ‘keeper Ciaran Gallagher, one of eight half-time replacements.
Fifteen minutes from time, Keating had his second when he slotted home at the second attempt after connecting with Pat McCann’s delivery.
Keating has moved to Harps on loan from Sligo Rovers, the 18-year old coming on an initital loan deal that lasts until the summer transfer window and his industrious and energetic display here – which included several demonstrations of a classy touch – was certainly the most encouraging sign of an otherwise drab afternoon for the visiting supporters.
Horgan said: “Ruairi did very well, he was up there on his own for a long time.
“He was up against two experienced centre-halves in Ryan McBride and Cliff Byrne, but he gave as much as he took.
“He was very positive. He’s a good kid. He has a lot to learn, but he was a bright spark.”
There was also an eye-catching display by the busy Patton during the second half.
Derry could, and should, have had more, but Patton was on form.
Tony McNamee forced a save after a swift move involving Michael Duffy and Thomas McMonagle – a Harps constcript last season who is aiming to win a contract at City for the new season.
Duffy’s direct running caused no end of trouble, while McNamee forced another fine reflex save after connecting with Shane McEleney’s cross-field ball and Duffy himself was denied by the Harps netminder after bursting clear on the left.
Ryan Curran and Conor Burke found Patton on form, as did Duffy again in injury time when a fine save with the legs denied him a goal.
Harps finished with ten men as Dean Gaynor limped off six minutes from the end with a foot injury. The on-trial Gaynor is one of those Horgan continues to mull over and the Harps boss remains hopeful of securing a venue for a friendly with the Republic of Ireland Schoolboys team on Wednesday night, although Finn Park will be out of bounds for the fixture.
“We’re struggling, but we’re still looking and we’ll get somewhere to play it,” Horgan added.
Derry City: Gerard Doherty; Rod Collins, Cliff Byrne, Ryan McBride, Aaron Barry; Danny Ventre, Barry Molloy, Barry McNamee; Patrick McEleney; Rory Patterson, Mark Stewart.
Subs: Ciaran Gallagher, Shane McEleney, Caoimhinn Bonner, Thomas McMonagle, Raymond Foy, Conor Burke, Ryan Curran and Michael Duffy for Doherty, Collins, Barry, Ventre, Molloy, McNamee, Patterson and Stewart (all half-time); Tony McNamee for P.McEleney (58 mins).
Finn Harps: Shaun Patton; Tommy Bonnar, Ciaran Coll, Shaun McGowan, Gareth Harkin; Michael Funston, Pat McCann, Mark Forker, Paul McVeigh; Dean Gaynor; Ruairi Keating.
Subs: Carel Tiofack for McGowan (56 mins), Ryan Curran for Forker (58 mins), Forker for Funston (65 mins), McGowan for Bonnar (68 mins).
AFTER spending the festive period in Las Vegas and San Francisco, Barry McNamee will return to Ireland this week...