Sean Houston returned to the Brandywell and denied his former club a north west derby win with an injury time equaliser on Tuesday night.
DERRY CITY . . . . . . . . . . . . . 2
FINN HARPS . . . . . . . . . . . . . 2
The Letterkenny man’s superb header on 91 minutes gave Harps a deserved share of the spoils and brought a dramatic end to an exciting Premier Division clash.
Houston was one of the star performers for the visitors, but he was quick to play down his role in the win, preferring instead to point to the performance of his goalkeeper who gave another quality display.
“I’d say Ciaran Gallagher was probably the hero of the night,” Houston said.
“He pulled off some great saves and kept us in it.
“They had four or five really good chances. Ciaran pulled off some really good saves. They did hurt us at times, especially down the right hand side.
“When we went 2-1 down, we had to throw everything at them, it didn’t matter if lost 3 or 4 then, we had to get something out of the game.
“You just have to keep going. Our boys are like that and we’re glad to get something out of it in the end.”
The draw maintains Harps’ recent good run of results. They’re now unbeaten in three and significantly, they remain clear of the relegation zone and seventh in the table, just a point behind Sligo Rovers.
Harps fans will also be happy at the fact that their team has taken four points out of six from their two meetings with Derry City.
That said, had Nathan Boyle not missed a proverbial sitter right at the death, Harps would have left the Brandywell pointless.
The City substitute, who was part of the Harps promotion-winning team last year, missed the target from all of four yards when it seemed easier to score.
It was one of a number of good chances that the home side created in the second half. They’d fallen behind to Ryan Curran’s goal after 20 minutes but bossed possession after the break as they went in search of an equaliser.
Curran’s goal came at the end of a fantastic Harps move which saw a number of players involved before Houston’s pass found Dave Scully on the edge of the box. His strike thundered down off the crossbar and Curran was on hand to head in.
Derry’s best chance of a goal fell to Rory Patterson but he clipped his effort wide with only Gallagher to beat.
Patterson was again denied by the keeper as Derry piled on the pressure after half time.
Ronan Curtis also went close on at least two occasions with Gallagher again called on to make a vital intervention.
But the equaliser eventually arrived seven minutes from the end when Joshua Daniels came off the bench to score his first senior goal. The equaliser was an emotional moment for the young Derry player who had only recently returned to first team action after the loss of five members of his family in the tragedy in Buncrana.
Derry then struck a second minutes later when Patterson worked an opening and curled a super effort beyond the reach of Gallagher.
But there was still time for further drama and at the end of another fine move, Michael Funston and Ciaran Coll combined for Houston to head a memorable equaliser to the delight of the travelling Harps faithful.
Derry City: Gerard Doherty, Niclas Vemmelund, Patrick McClean (Dean Jarvis 46), Ryan McBride, Aaron Barry, Conor McCormack, Keith Ward (Nathan Boyle 77), Aaron McEneff, Barry McNamee, Rory Patterson, Ronan Curtis (Joshua Daniels 77).
Finn Harps: Ciaran Gallagher, Damien McNulty, Ciaran Coll, Keith Cowan, Packie Mailey, Sean Houston, Barry Molloy (Kevin McHugh 88), Ryan Curran, Adam Hanlon (Michael Funston 86), Dave Scully, Tony McNamee (Ethan Boyle 74).
Referee: Neil Doyle.