Finn Harps were last night awaiting international clearance to ensure new signings Michael Funston and Mark Scoltock will be free to make their returns to the club on Saturday against Mervue United (7.45pm).
The duo re-signed for the club last month and lined out in the 2-1 friendly win against Cliftonville at Finn Park last Sunday - when Kevin McHugh and Tommy McBride scored the goals - but were not able to play competitively until the month of July.
Funston joined from Dungannon Swifts having lined out for Harps between the years of 2004 and 2009, while Scoltalk, who last played with Institute, had a six-game spell when Harps were a Premier Division outfit away back in the summer of 2005.
“I’ve been saying for the last few weeks that I was looking forward to the month of July, where we would get an opportunity to strengthen the squad as we’ve had a lot of injuries and suspensions to deal with of late,” manager Peter Hutton said. “For the first time in quite a while there’s a chance of having a squad that will have competition for places.”
Speaking of suspensions, Hutton was also awaiting to hear news on midfielder McBride, who was given a straight red card for the second time this season in last Friday’s 3-0 loss at the hands of Limerick FC at Jackman Park.
“I’ve no qualms about the sending off and Tommy will definitely miss the game against Mervue and their might be further damage,” Hutton said. “He was very frustrated as the referee actually awarded a free-kick but the assistant signalled for a penalty, which it never was, and then Tommy reacted in a way we were not happy with.”
Central defender Aaron O’Hagan is the other main concern for Hutton having picked up a knock last weekend; the Castlefin native was then an absentee against Cliftonville and then again for training on Tuesday night.
So, aside the suspended McBride and possibly O’Hagan, long-term cruciate injury sufferers Stephen O’Donnell, Blain Curtis and Hugh Carlin are the only absentees. McHugh returned from a four-match ban last weekend and Adam Clarke’s suspension for three games has also concluded. Neither has played a match at Finn Park since May 5, a 2-1 home reversal against Athlone Town that was also the last time Felix Healy was director of football at the club for a match in Ballybofey.
Mervue are a side that have caused trouble for Harps this term. During Harps’ first home game of the campaign they shared seven goals with the side managed by Johnny Glynn, with the hosts coming out on top by four goals to three.
McHugh scored two that night, while Thomas McMonagle and Clarke were the goalscorers but the outfit from Fahy’s Field more than made up for that reversal when they hammered Harps 3-0 in the return in April when Alan Murphy, Jason Molloy and Marc Ludden sealed the win.
Last weekend, Mervue led league leaders Longford Town by three goals to nil at the interval and 4-3 on 90 minutes only for the midlanders to seal victory when Gary Shaw and Mark Salmon capped off one of the most spectacular matches in many a season.
“Mervue will still be a little sore from last weekend and I’m sure Johnny Glynn will be looking for a positive reaction from them when they come to Finn Park,” Hutton said. “We beat them up here early in the season in a strange game but then we well beaten down there.
“We always try and concentrate on ourselves all the same and this week will be no different. We’re at home and hopefully we’ll have a couple of players in and we can get the three points.”