SEAN HOUSTON RESCUED A dramatic draw for Finn Harps at The Brandywell tonight in a rip-roaring finish to the north-west derby.
Derry City 2 Finn Harps 2
Goals in the final six minutes by Josh Daniels and Rory Patterson swung the pendulum towards Derry after Ryan Curran’s first-half opener.
When Patterson delightfully curled beyond a previously-inspired Ciaran Gallagher, it seemed as if Harps were set for the familiar tale of woe by the Foyle.
But, just as the clock entered injury time, Ciaran Coll’s cross was met by Houston and the Letterkenny man, an ex-Derry player, soared high and delightfully placed a header beyond Gerard Doherty.[adrotate group=”43″]
The few hundred souls in Block A of the Southend Stand were delirious, having moments earlier felt utterly deflated.
It seemed as if Harps were set to record a first-ever League win over Derry City at The Brandywell, when Derry netted twice in a heart-stopping conclusion.
First, Daniels connected with Nathan Boyle’s cross and steered past Gallagher with his first touch, just six minutes after he was sent on.
Four minutes later, Patterson superbly finished with what looked like a winner, only for Houston to save the day for Harps.
The visitors hit the front in the 20th minute.
Dave Scully’s thumping effort crashed off the Derry crossbar after Houston and McNamee worked the chance and Curran headed home from 12 yards, the 22-year-old returning to haunt his former employers, as he had done 10 weeks ago in a 2-1 win at Finn Park.[adrotate group=”50″]
Only twice in 30 previous visits to the Derry’s Lone Moor Road had Harps tasted victory, the last of those a 2-0 win in the now-forgotten Irish News Cup in 1999 when Shane Bradley and Kevin McHugh netted.
Before that ‘the Sammy Johnson game’ – when the Scot’s double secured a 2-1 League Cup win in August 1997 – represented success for Harps over 90 minutes at the foot of The Creggan.
Curran’s goal was like an alarm call for Derry as the home side soon came to life and it took a strong parry from the goalkeeper, Gallagher, to keep out Barry McNamee’s shot.
Patterson and Derry should have drawn level just before the half-hour. The Strabane man found himself eye-balling Gallagher, but his deft effort, in a position from which he really ought to have scored trickled wide.
Right on half-time, Gallagher made a superb save to keep out a low attempt from Ronan Curtis, the Harps netminder managing to gather bravely in a flash with Derry queuing up for the rebounds.
Earlier in the half, Patterson stabbed a shot at the Harps stopper after edging away from Cowan, while Damien McNulty averted the danger when Curtis breached the trap.
Cowan was given the green light to line out, the centre-back having suffered a foot injury during Friday’s 0-0 draw against Bohemians, but there was no place for Gareth Harkin, whose calf injury rendered him unavailable.
Scully, who scored one of the goals in March as Harps defeated their derby rivals, made his return to the starting XI.[adrotate group=”37″]
The game took some time to come to life, although Adam Hanlon riffled over the top and Curran headed over with early half-chances for the visitors.
It was one of the most low-key build-ups to north-west derby in recent times, perhaps the midweek date and the fact Setanta Sports showed the game live dulling a usually-fierce affair.
Since losing to Harps in Ballybofey on the season’s opening night, the Candystripes scorched into form and had lost just once since – against Sligo Rovers in the ‘other’ derby.
Kenny Shiels’ team was unchanged from that which defeated St Patrick’s Athletic on Friday night, meaning the McNamee brothers, Derry’s Barry and Harps’ Tony, were again in combat.
Derry, as if affronted by the fact that their opponents led at the interval, showed a renewed spirit on the resumption, but Barry McNamee screwed a volley wide with a decent opening three minutes into the new half.[adrotate group=”46″]
It took another intervention from Gallagher to save with his legs from Keith Ward, who scampered onto a Conor McCormick pass as Derry sought a way back into the contest.
The inspired Raphoe man, who spent 2014 on Derry’s books before returning to Harps, was at it again, this time getting in the way of a neat Curtis effort.
Harps were clinging on by the very ends of their fingers although, on one rare foray forward in the second half, substitute Ethan Boyle looked in a promising position, only to roll his shot wide.
With time ticking, slowly it seemed, towards the end, Hanlon warmed the palms of the under-worked Gerard Doherty, after skipping in from the left flank, with Gallagher thwarting Jarvis as Derry’s efforts became more frantic.[adrotate group=”38″]
In the mad ending, Harps could have won and could have lost, but they’ll leave quite content with a share of the spoils.
That was especially so when you take into account a glorious last-gasp chance for Nathan Boyle, who dragged wide from close range.
Derry City: Gerard Doherty; Niclas Vemmelund. Ryan McBride, Aaron Barry, Patrick McClean (Dean Jarvis half-time); Keith Ward (Josh Daniels 78), Aaron McEneff, Conor McCormack, Ronan Curtis (Nathan Boyle 78); Barry McNamee; Rory Patterson.
Finn Harps: Ciaran Gallagher; Damien McNulty, Packie Mailey, Keith Cowan, Ciaran Coll; Ryan Curran, Barry Molloy (Kevin McHugh 90), Sean Houston, Tony McNamee (Ethan Boyle 74); Adam Hanlon (Michael Funston 86), Dave Scully.
Referee: Neil Doyle (Dublin).Tags: