Paul McVeigh’s injury time strike put a gloss on what was a rather tepid performance from Harps in Sunday’s pre-season friendly with Derry City at Finn Park.
Finn Harps 1
Derry City 2
The Donegal club just never got going against their North West neighbours who looked so much better in all areas of the park.
This was Harps’ final run-out before they open their competitive campaign with next Sunday’s trip to play the Mayo League in the opening round of the EA Sports League Cup.
Not surprisingly, Peter Hutton, named a fairly strong starting eleven for this ‘JJ Reid Cup’ clash. The team included three of his new signings - Matthew Crossan and Damien McNulty in defence and Míchael Doherty wide on the left. However, speaking afterwards, the Harps boss reckoned it was his team’s worst performance of all their pre-season games.
“We were poor, very poor, especially in the first half. We didn’t make any changes at half time and in fairness, we did a bit better after that, but overall it was very disappointing,” he said.
“I’m not sure what the problem was. It wasn’t a great game, there wasn’t that much quality football played.
“We seemed tired and lethargic and it was disappointing, especially after we had done so well in pre-season and got those good results against Dundalk and Sligo.”
The opening goal of the game came five minutes before half time when Rory Patterson fired to the net after being set up by Paddy Kavanagh. Patterson had come on in place of one of City’s new signing, former Harps man, Sean Houston who twisted an ankle which forced him off on the half hour.
The visitors deserved their half time lead having dominated the first half and forcing a succession of corners and set-piece situations which had the Harps back-line on overtime. In contrast, Harps offered little or no threat when coming forward and playing as the lone frontman in a 4-5-1 formation, Kevin McHugh was an isolated figure for that first 45 minutes.
In fairness to Harps, they did improve after the break. Matthew Crossan was unfortunate to see his header from a Míchael Doherty corner go over the crossbar as the home side went in search of an early response after the break. But Derry continued to look the team most likely to score again and new signing Mark Griffin was guilty of a poor finish when he looked certain to double the advantage just before the hour, side-footing wide when he really should have scored.
The same player was involved again a short-time later. This time he was quickest to react after substitute, Ryan Curran’s shot came back off the post but fortunately for Harps, Griffin’s close-range shot also struck the woodwork.
Curran eventually made the breakthrough three minutes from the end when he headed in a Barry McNamee cross - McNamee, from Ramelton, had come on in place of Kevin Deery’s in City’s midfield at half time.
His brother Tony also got a run in the dying minutes when Griffen also hobbled out of the action. By that stage, City had done enough to ensure victory - although as the game entered injury time, Paul McVeigh headed home a consolation effort for the Harps.
Finn Harps: Ciaran Gallagher, James Doherty (Sean McCarron 55), Matthew Crossan, Thomas McMonagle, Damien McNulty (Keith Cowan 55), Aaron O’Hagan (Matthew Harkin 55), Tommy McBride, Shaun McGowan, Thomas Bonner, Kevin McHugh (Paul McVeigh 67), Míchael Doherty (Marc Brolly 71).
Derry City: Gerard Doherty, Dermot McCafferty, Stewart Greacen, Ruaidhri Higgins, Kevin Deery (Barry McNamee 45), Mark Griffin (Tony McNamee 88), Ryan McBride (Shane McEleney 63), Patrick Kavanagh (Ryan Curran 63), Sean Houst0n (Rory Patterson 32), Simon Madden, Thomas Crawley (Andy Devlin 85).
Referee Paul McLaughlin.
Left-back Coll to miss start of season
Harps manager Peter Hutton revealed that Ciaran Coll is likely to be ruled out for a number of weeks after suffering a serious cartilage injury in the recent pre-season friendly against Sligo Rovers.
The extent of the defender’s injury was confirmed during the week.
Meanwhile Letterkenny man, Seaun Houston, who is one of Derry City’s new signings, is also facing a period on the treatment table. The former Bray midfielder twisted his ankle during the first half of yesterday’s game and his ankle was severely swollen afterwards.