DERRY CITY: City on verge of Europe after strolling to victory in NW derby

Derry City's Ronan Curtis fired the home side into a first half lead in the North West derby.
Derry City's Ronan Curtis fired the home side into a first half lead in the North West derby.

Derry City 3, Finn Harps 0

DERRY CITY have all but secured European qualification after strolling to victory over North West rivals Finn Harps at Maginn Park.

The result consolidates fourth spot for City and with Bray Wanderers at arm's length, a place in next season's Europa League looks secured.

For Harps, the Ballybofey men appear destined for a return to the First Division as Kenny Shiels guided his club to a first home win over Ollie Horgan's troops since taking charge at Brandywell in 2016.

Fresh from his excellent display for the Republic of Ireland U21s in the Euro 2019 qualifier against Israel midweek, Ronan Curtis fired City in front on 24 minutes with his ninth goal of the season.

And Rory Patterson netted a seven minute brace at the start of the second half to put this, at times fiesty, derby clash to bed, allowing Shiels to hand senior debuts to both Evan Tweed and Sean McBride.

There was more than pride at stake in this derby clash with City hoping to close the gap on Shamrock Rovers in third while Harps had Premier Division survival on their minds.

Kenny Shiels had to plan without the in-form Nicky Low who served his one match suspension while Dean Jarvis missed out through injury.

In came Aaron McEneff, City's joint top scorer this season, while Lukas Schubert was also recalled to the starting XI. Conor McDermott recovered from ankle ligament damage which had ruled him out of N. Ireland U21 duty, to retain his place.

For Harps, ex-City star, Paddy McCourt was struggling with a calf strain and dropped to the bench while former Candy Stripes winger, Mark Timlin and Ethan Boyle were also rule out. Packie Mailey, Danny Morrissey and Caolan McAleer were all handed starts.

It was a cagey start from both sides but City had the first chance of the match on 14 minutes when Ben Doherty's inswinging cross from the left was headed harmlessly wide by Schubert.

Patterson then had a shot deflected wide by the outstretched foot of Ciaran Coll as the Harps defence survived another dangerous City attack.

However, the visitors were the architects of their own downfall on 24 minutes when McNulty was dispossessed by Curtis who burst into the Harps penalty area before firing clinically into the far corner.

McEneff came so close to adding a second on 35 minutes when he dropped his shoulder and went past Coll before sending his side-footed effort from 20 yards just wide of the target.

Harps finished the half strongly and Morrissey was presented with their first real chance of the match 60 seconds before the break but his shot was deflected behind.

Derry City unveiled new signing, former Kilmarnock defender, Dapo Kayode at the interval - the Nigerian penning a 12 month contract with the club.

The Ballybofey men came close to an equaliser almost immediately after the restart from Gareth Harkin's free-kick which was diverted narrowly over by the head of Packie Mailey.

Derry doubled their lead on 56 minutes when McEneff spread the play to Curtis who did superbly to get past McNulty before squaring the ball into the path of the unmarked Patterson who applied the finish from eight yards.

And the ex-Northern Ireland striker added his second seven minutes later when he stopped to head Ben Doherty's outstanding delivery into the net from close range.

Curtis had a shot cleared off the line by Cantwell in the final minute before debutante, Sean McBride fired just wide of the post as City finished on top.

Derry City: G. Doherty; C. McDermott, D. Cole, A. Barry, B. Doherty; L. Schubert (N. Boyle 71), H. Monaghan (E. Tweed 81), A. McEneff, R. Curtis; B. McNamee; R. Patterson (S. McBride 86); Subs Not Used - E. Grimes, J. Dolny, S. Todd, E. Toal.

Finn Harps: C. Gallagher; D. McNulty, P. Mailey, K. Cantwell, C. Coll; C. McAleer, G. Harkin, T. McBride (J. Bonner 61), D. Morrissey; S. Houston (A. Keita 65); E. Dsane (BJ Banda 54); Subs Not Used - P. McCourt, P. Burke, L. Walsh.

Referee - Ben Connolly.