Death and taxes, we’re told, are the two certainties in life but Derry City defeating Finn Harps almost falls into that category.
Finn Harps 1
Derry City 1
Derry won 6-5 on penalties)
Paul McVeigh, on Monday night, had the chance to win it for Harps when he stepped up to take the 14th penalty in the EA Sports Cup second round shoot-out following Ciaran Gallagher’s excellent save from Simon Madden.
But McVeigh hit the base of the post and City debutant Raymond Foy, a native of Castlefin, put the visitors 6-5 up. Thomas Bonner skied the last penalty and Derry’s sleeper-hold on Harps continues.
Gerard Doherty saved the first of the Harps spot kicks from Gary Merritt, while Ciaran Gallagher denied Shane McEleney and Madden. It was a tense affair after Rory Patterson and Aaron O’Hagan had traded first half goals.
Harps’ last win over their neighbours came in 2000, when Alex Nesovic scored the only goal. It was only their fifth win in 58 matches.
However, Patterson’s second yellow card, 15 minutes from time for catching Ciaran Coll high, meant Harps’ poker chips were stacked a little higher.
In an entertaining match, a largely Harps second string proved themselves more than a match for the illustrious opponents, both in heart and ability.
And although they were deflated at the match’s end, Hutton has seen some of his fringe players gain invaluable experience. When the Navenny Road residents return to the bread and butter of the Airtricity League First Division campaign, starting at Wexford Youths on Friday, at least the Harps manager knows he has options.
Sixteen minutes in, though, Derry took the lead thanks to an improvised effort from Patterson – his 13th goal of the season.
Harps failed to clear with both O’Hagan nd Ciaran Coll having bites before Madden’s touch bounced to Patterson, who instantly hooked a volley over his shoulder, which flew past Gallagher. It was a real poacher’s goal.
Patterson went close to a second eight minutes before half-time as, following a precise move that also involved Madden and Patrick McEleney, his volley was blocked by Keith Cowan at the expense of a corner.
With the first half closing, Harps got themselves back on terms with a fine header from O’Hagan, who rose the highest in a crowded penalty area, to plant a looping effort across Doherty and home following a free-kick from the impressive Johnny Bonner.
Both sides made considerable alterations from the starting teams from Friday night. Hutton, following the 1-0 home win over Mervue United, made eight changes with only goakeeper Gallagher, Coll and Cowan retaining their places.
Josh Mailey made his debut at right-back and Mark Forker came into midfield, thus making his first start since rejoining the Ballybofey club from Letterkenny Rovers.
Declan Devine brought in Dermot McCaffrey, Stuart Greacen, Patrick McEleney, Michael Duffy and Ryan Curran in place of Sean Houston, Ryan McBride, Barry Molloy, Kevin Deery and Mark Griffin, who all featured in the 3-2 win at Drogheda United.
Derry really ought to have re-established their lead at the start of the second half when Shane McEleney snuck around the back following a Barry McNamee free-kick but a combination of Gallagher and the base of the post kept the centre-half out.
Chances came and went at both ends. Bonner broke into the box with intent for Harps only to see Doherty save and then Stuart Greacen headed inches over the crossbar after a corner from Patrick McEleney.
After Patterson’s dismissal, O’Hagan almost etched himself into Harps folklore when he steered narrowly over the crossbar from the edge of the area following Doherty’s punch from a Bonner free.
McVeigh then found himself in a corridor of opportunity having been released by Shaun McGowan, only to be thwarted by the Derry goalkeeper after a thumping shot that restored parity on 90 minutes.
Nearing the end of the first period of extra-time, Harps had a fortunate escape when Cowan cleared off the line as the ball was squirming over after a Madden cross almost caught Gallagher and Thomas Bonner with their wires crossed. Mark Griffin then spun a shot inches wide as the locals chomped on their fingernails.
Madden went as close as anyone as the shadows lengthened in the second period but could only shoot into Gallagher’s side-netting when found by McNamee.
Finn Harps: Ciaran Gallagher; Josh Mailey (Sean McCarron 97), Aaron O’Hagan, Keith Cowan, Ciaran Coll; Michéal Doherty (Gary Merritt 91), Mark Forker (Thomas Bonner 82), Shaun McGowan, Matthew Harkin; Johnny Bonner, Paul McVeigh.
Derry City: Gerard Doherty; Simon Madden, Shane McEleney, Stuart Greacen, Dermot McCaffrey; Ryan Curran (Raymond Foy 99), Ruaidhri Higgins, Barry McNamee, Michael Duffy; Patrick McEleney (Mark Griffin 80), Rory Patterson.
Referee: Rob Rogers.
Man of the match
Harps had impressive showings from first-timer Josh Mailey and Johnny Bonner was in fine form as a link-man to the willing Paul McVeigh. But Aaron O’Hagan was the best on show, while Derry City’s Rory Patterson, despite his sending off, showed his class with a well-taken goal.
Rob Rogers had a decent enough match and got all the main calls right, including Patterson’s sending off for two bookings - first for dissent and then for catching Ciaran Coll with an elbow.
There was nothing between the teams and the issue was only decided for sure when Thomas Bonner smashed the last penalty over the crossbar.