McHugh, O’Hagan and McBride return for Athlone

With Kevin McHugh, Aaron O’Hagan and Thomas McBride available for the first time in a number of weeks for Saturday night’s Airtricity First Division clash with Athlone Town in Finn Park.

With Kevin McHugh, Aaron O’Hagan and Thomas McBride available for the first time in a number of weeks for Saturday night’s Airtricity First Division clash with Athlone Town in Finn Park.

Leading goalscorer McHugh and central midfield players O’Hagan and Thomas McBride all have completed match bans and are available to Hutton as he bids to extend Harps’ unbeaten run to nine games.

Saturday night’s meeting with the Shannonsiders is a real six pointer as both sides are on 29 points and vying for fourth place in the league table. Harps currently occupy the fourth spot, but Athlone have a game less played.

“We are on a good run and confidence is high among the squad and we are anxious to keep that run going against Athlone on Saturday night,” said the Harps boss.

“Kevin McHugh, Aaron O’Hagan and Thomas McBride have all completed their suspensions and are available this week and do strengthen our options for Athlone, and it does give me something of a selection headache. But it is a good problem to have,” insisted Hutton.

Hutton is expecting a stiff test from the visitors on Saturday night who are on a decent run themselves.

“It is a big game for us and it is the same for Athlone. We are equal on points and they have a game in hand on us. But we are determined to hold on to that fourth place and if we can get a result at the weekend it will be a big step in the right direction. Besides we have gone eight games unbeaten and we want to maintain that run.

“Athlone are a good side and are on a decent run themselves of late and have a lot of quality in their team. They are going to be tough, but confidence is good in our squad and we are on a good run and we will go all out to maintain that run and hold on to fourth place.”

A Harps win on Saturday night would open a three point gap and with just four games remaining we would Hutton and his men stake a major claim on the coveted fourth place.

Last weekend Harps drew 1-1 with Mervue United down in Galway. Paul McVeigh scored the Harps goal in the first half from a header, with Cian O’Brien equalising for Mervue from a volley, early in the second half.

“Last week’s game was not pretty, but it was a dogged performance from the boys and they showed real character for what is a very young side and we probably had enough chances to probably have taken the full points. Nevertheless, we were happy with the draw and the character shown by the boys.”

This Saturday night’s game is the fourth meeting between the sides this season with Athlone winning 2-0 at home back in March in the third game of the new season. Athlone again took the full points in their 2-1 victory in Finn Park, at the beginning of May, with Kevin McHugh scoring the Harps goal.

However, Harps gained a measure of consolation for their opening two defeats on their last visit to Athlone, when they drew 1-1. Aaron O’Hagan, who returns this weekend, netted the Harps goal in what was the second game into Harps present unbeaten run.