Finn Harps are going to have to step up big time on last Friday night’s performance against UCD when they host Shamrock Rovers tonight in Finn Park.
Harps against the early pace setters and league leaders Shamrock Rovers is the only Premier Division game going ahead this weekend.
The other four ties - Dundalk against Bohemians, St Patricks Athletic home to Derry City, Sligo Rovers home to Waterford United and UCD at home to Cork City are all postponed due to international call ups.
And despite Shamrock Rovers, the form team in the division, also having three players called up, the fixture is still going ahead.
Rovers top scorer Jack Byrne has been called into the Irish squad for this weekend’s European Qualifier against Gibraltar and Brandon Kavanagh and Trevor Clarke are in Stephen Kenny’s U-21 team for their European qualifiers.
Shamrock Rovers could have sought a postponement but are quite content for the game to go ahead.
This comes as no surprise to Finn Harps manager Ollie Horgan who rates Shamrock Rovers very highly and the best team in the division so far this season.
“Anyone who watched us last Friday night against UCD would not be looking for a postponement. They would be quite happy to play us,” said the Harps boss at the weekly press briefing in the Radisson Hotel, Letterkenny on Tuesday night.
“We were very poor against UCD and what was the most disappointing about the performance was that we showed no fight and no spirit after UCD scored.
“This was so unlike us and the reality is only two or three of the lads played up to the standard they are capable of playing. And that is something we are going to have to address on Friday night against Shamrock Rovers.
“They are a serious side and by far the best team we have played so far and I honestly believe the team that finishes above them will win the league.
“I’m not saying they will win the league but they are a serious side. They are bigger and physically stronger since we played them the last time we were up in the Premier Division two years ago.”
Long term injured Gareth Harkin and Mark Timlin are still out of the reckoning for Friday night.
But other than a few knocks Horgan expects to have a fully fit squad for tonight’s clash.
“We had a few lads that sat out training last night (Monday) and a few more that sat out tonight’s session. But they all should be fine and good to go.”
Despite last Friday night’s 3-0 defeat to UCD and the 4-3 defeat to Cork City the week before, the Harps boss insists the mood is still upbeat in the squad and confidence hasn’t been dented.
“We all knew from day one it was going to be difficult and it was going to be a battle.”
Rovers won 3-0 thanks to goals from Robert Lopez and Peter Burke (2) in Tallaght Stadium at the beginning of the month on the first big defeat inflicted on Harps in the Premier Division.
But despite this and the fact that the Dubliners are going to be without internationals Byrne, Kavanagh and Clarke, Horgan is not without hope of taking something from tomorrow night’s tie.
“We are always hopeful ahead of every game and Friday night is no different though we are fully aware of the challenge we face.
“But if we are to have any chance we are going to have to rediscover the fight and spirit we normally have and that we didn’t have against UCD.
“It doesn’t matter if we go 1-0 or 2-0 down, we have to fight to get something out of the game and if we do that we will always have a chance. And if we don’t and we revert back to last Friday night’s type of performance it could be a long night in Finn Park.”
Shamrock Rovers top the SSE Airtricity Premier Division table on 16 points from seven games. They are four points ahead of the champions Dundalk, who are on 12 with one game less played.
Harps prop up the table with just two points from seven games.