Finn Harps 0, Derry City 2
DERRY CITY netted twice in the final six minutes to earn the bragging rights in the North West derby against Finn Harps, clinching a victory which catapulted them back into third spot in the SSE Airtricity Premier Division.
The impressive Darren Cole, in just his fourth City appearance, scored his first goal for the club three minutes from time with a low left footed strike before Aaron McEneff made sure of the win three minutes into second half stoppage time with a composed finish.
Victory over their rivals saw City avenge the 2-0 defeat to Harps at Maginn Park back in April and moved them two points clear of Shamrock Rovers who have a game.
It was Kenny Shiel's troops' second win in the space of four days following a battling 1-0 win over Bohemians at Dalymount Park last Friday night and the club's first consecutive victories since last March.
The big news before kick-off was the notable omission of City forward, Ronan Curtis from the match day squad for disciplinary reasons. Josh Daniels came in to replace the Republic of Ireland U19 striker who had scored five goals from City's previous eight games.
N. Ireland U19 international, Eoin Toal was handed his City debut, replacing the suspended Aaron Barry to partner Cole at the centre of the defence while Lukas Schubert returned to the starting line-up at the expense of Nathan Boyle.
For Harps, who came into the game having taken six points from their previous two matches, were seeking successive victories over their North West neighbours for the first time ever.
New signing, Ibrahim Keita came in for his debut, replacing the injured Danny Morrissey (hamstring) while Ethan Boyle replaced Barry Molloy with ex-City winger, Paddy McCourt suspended.
Having enjoyed a weekend off, it was Harps who looked sharpest at the start of the game. However, it was Derry who made the first noteworthy attack on five minutes when right-back, Conor McDermott ran 70 yards unopposed towards the edge of the box but he dragged his shot wide of the target.
Gerard Doherty kept his team on level terms when Sean Houston's short free-kick was played into the path of Caolan McAleer but his shot was saved by the legs of the alert City skipper on nine minutes during a promising spell for the home lot.
Suddenly the visitors sparked into action when City's teenage defender, Toal sent his looping header from Nicky Low's inswinging corner kick onto the top of the crossbar on 26 minutes with Ciaran Gallagher beaten.
There were half-hearted claims for a penalty kick from City players on the half hour mark when Aaron McEneff's free-kick appeared to hit the hand of McAleer but the referee waved play on.
Derry increased the intensity and when Josh Daniels found McEneff inside the penalty area, the midfielder's strike took a deflection and went just wide of Gallagher's post and behind for a corner.
French striker, Keita then slipped the ball into Eddie Dsane on the edge of the Derry box and his right-footed strike curled narrowly wide of the post nine minutes before the interval.
Harps really should've taken a lead in to the half-time break as Gareth Harkin delivered superbly from a corner kick and Houston was gifted a free header which he sent just wide of the left hand post with Doherty rooted to the spot on 44 minutes.
McEneff tried his luck with a powerful strike from distance just 60 seconds into the second half but Gallagher gathered at the second attempt.
From a ball over the top of City defenders, Toal and Dean Jarvis, it fell to Dsane but just as he unleashed his shot, a combination of Doherty and Jarvis denied the striker what appeared a certain goal.
McDermott's strike ricocheted off Packie Mailey and fell kindly to McEneff and his low, right-footed strike was saved superbly by Gallagher with 17 minutes left on the clock.
Both defences were on top for the final 20 minutes but City defender Toal arrived late at the back post and directed his effort just over the bar from a corner kick with five minutes remaining.
The warning signs were there for Harps and Toal's defensive partner Cole came to the fore two minutes later when the centre half latched onto a cross into the box and drilled his left footed effort past Gallagher for a timely opener.
McEneff then sealed the win in stoppage time as Rory Patterson split the Harps' defence to find the midfielder and he showed great composure as he rounded the goalkeeper before finding the back of the net for his ninth goal of the season.
Finn Harps: Ciaran Gallagher; Damien McNulty, Killian Cantwell, Packie Mailey; Ciaran Coll; Ethan Boyle, Gareth Harkin, Caolan McAleer; Sean Houston; Eddie Dsane (Jonny Bonner 79), Ibrahim Keita (BJ Banda 67); Subs Not Used - Harry Doherty, Barry Molloy, Simon McGlynn, Pascal Millien, Tommy McBride.
Derry City: Gerard Doherty; Conor McDermott, Darren Cole, Eoin Toal, Dean Jarvis; Lukas Schubert (Nathan Boyle 73), Aaron McEneff, Nicky Low, Josh Daniels (Ben Doherty 79); Barry McNamee, Rory Patterson; Subs Not Used - Eric Grimes, Rory Holden, Mark Timlin, Jamie McIntyre, Sam Todd.
Referee - Ray Matthews.