Derry City close gap at the top after strolling to derby victory over Finn Harps
Derry City 3 Finn Harps 0
DERRY CITY moved back to within two points of league leaders Shamrock Rovers with four games remaining after taking the North West derby spoils with a comprehensive victory over Finn Harps at Brandywell.
September Player of the Month nominee, Michael Duffy gave the Candystripes the perfect start with a close range finish after Brandon Kavanagh’s sublime throughball on 19 minutes.
Kavanagh then doubled Derry’s lead with a 61st minute tap-in and the home side could so easily have ran riot but for some terrific saves from Harps keeper James McKeown.
McKeown saved substitute Jamie McGonigle’s penalty on 74 minutes but could do little to stop the striker’s shot from distance as the Dungiven man made amends with his 93rd minute volley from the edge of the box.
The victory, an eighth on the spin, leaves Derry still in the hunt for the title as they stretched their unbeaten run to 17 matches in domestic competitions.
Harps, meanwhile, remain in trouble with their only reprieve being UCD’s defeat to Sligo Rovers.
Ruaidhri Higgins made three changes from the team which clinched a vital win against St Patrick's Athletic at Richmond Park last weekend.
Skipper Patrick McEleney, who sustained a minor groin injury in the first half of that clash was replaced by Brandon Kavanagh. His brother Shane returned to the starting line-up at the expense of Ciaran Coll and in came James Akintunde for Jamie McGonigle. Ryan Graydon who made a big impact off the bench against the Saints as he served an automatic suspension.
Finn Harps made four changes as Liam McGing, Jaime Siaj, Eric McWoods and the suspended Ethan Boyle were replaced by Jose Carrillo, Filip Mihaljevic, Ryan Rainey and Dylan Duncan.
The home side almost got off to the perfect start on four minutes when Akintunde latched onto a long punt upfield and deftly lobbed the ball over the head of James McKeown who advanced to the edge of the box but Jose Carrillo headed the goalbound effort behind.
Stand-in skipper Cameron McJannet really should've found the net from Will Patching's inswinging corner on 11 minutes but somehow sent his free header wide of the mark.
Harps were camped inside their own half for large spells and the breakthrough arrived on 19 minutes as Kavanagh sliced through the visiting defence to find the run of Duffy who delayed his shot before firing expertly past McKeown at close range.
It was Duffy's third goal of the season and Derry's 50th in the league this season!
Five minutes after going behind, ex-City midfielder Barry McNamee forced a fine save from Brian Maher with a superbly hit strike from 25 yards with his left foot as the Derry keeper turned it behind at full stretch.
It was a good response from the Donegal side but Derry were causing problems again with Dummigan crossing dangerously towards Boyce in the box and the Ramelton man's glancing header went wide.
Duffy was brought down 25 yards from the Harps goal in a central position but McKeown saved well from Patching's curling free-kick which looked destined for the top corner.
McNamee and Gary Boylan linked up well deep inside Derry's half but the latter's strike from distance was saved comfortably by Maher.
Nevertheless it was encouraging for the men from Ballybofey and despite Derry's dominance, the game was still in the balance going into the second half.
It could’ve been all over four minutes after the break, however, as Duffy slotted a lovely pass into the feet of Akintunde but the Londoner skimmed his shot narrowly wide of the far post.
Kavanagh then stung the hands of McKeown with a strike from an acute angle and when Boyce miscued his shot into the path of the unmarked Akintunde six yards from goal, the Harps keeper bravely saved at point blank range to deny the City striker.
Derry were piling on the pressure and Dylan Duncan bravely blocked Kavanagh’s close range strike on the line before the Harps defence cleared behind for a corner.
The second goal was coming and it arrived on 61 minutes when a low ball across the face of the Harps goal was tucked away confidently from two yards by Kavanagh for his second goal for the club.
The run of substitute, McGonigle was picked out superbly by Maher and when the striker got in behind Tourish inside the Harps penalty area the defender cynically dragged him back on 73 minutes. Match referee Sean Grant pointed to the spot but McGonigle’s spotkick was saved by McKeown who dived low to his left.
McKeown made another fine save to deny Patching who tried his luck from distance with three minutes remaining but he could do nothing to stop McGonigle’s half volley from the edge of the box as the striker made amends for his earlier penalty miss.
Derry City: B. Maher: R. Boyce, M. Connolly, S. McEleney, C. McJannet; B. Kavanagh (J. Thomson 80), C. Dummigan, S. Diallo, M. Duffy; W. Patching (D. Glass 90); J. Akintunde (J. McGonigle 66): Subs Not Used - J. Lemoignan, C. Coll, P. McEleney, J. McEneff, D. Lafferty, C. Kavanagh.
Finn Harps: J. McKeown; J. Carrillo (J. Siaj 60), C. Tourish, R. Slevin, R. Donelon; G. Boylan, D. Duncan, R. Connolly, B. McNamee (M. Timlin 85); R. Rainey; F. Mihaljevic (R. Jones 60); Subs Not Used - G. Mulreany, L. Redden, H. Nicholson, S. O'Donnell, L. McGing, D. Duffy.
Referee - Sean Grant.