Derry City 2, Finn Harps 2
AARON McEneff says he was ‘devastated’ Derry City failed to take maximum points after a dramatic end to tonight’s action-packed North West derby against Finn Harps.
Ex-Candy Stripe, Sean Houston rose to head home the equaliser in stoppage time as the Ballybofey men rescued a share of the spoils right at the death at Brandywell.
Another former Derry City player, Ryan Curran had given the visitors a deserved first half lead when he headed in from close range on 20 minutes.
Derry were dominant in the second half and two goals in the space of four minutes from substitute, Josh Daniels on 84 minutes and Rory Patterson on 88, put the home lot in the driving seat.
However, Houston made space 12 yards from the Derry goal two minutes later and sent his looping header from Michael Funston’s cross over the head of Gerard Doherty and into the net.
Derry substitute, Nathan Boyle then missed a glorious chance to clinch the win in the dying seconds when he screwed his shot wide with the net gaping.
City midfielder, McEneff said the Candy Stripes should have been out of sight such was their dominance in the second half, claiming the draw felt more like a defeat.
“I’m devastated,” said the midfielder. “All the boys worked hard for this derby game, it’s one you want to win and we feel we should have won it but credit to Finn Harps they stuck with it. And whenever they went a goal down they threw men up and got the equaliser.
“First half we maybe played the occasion and it got to some boys, myself included,” he admitted. “We were nervous and I gave the ball away early doors. But we all started to get into the game altogether and I thought we played some outstanding football in the second half. That kind of football would beat any team in this league but you have to take your chances.
I thought we played some outstanding football in the second half. That kind of football would beat any team in this league but you have to take your chances.Aaron McEneff
“The likes of Dundalk and Cork are taking their chances and that’s where we need to get to.
“It was very one side in the second half. We started slowly in the first but if you look at the many chances we created over the whole game, we should be coming out with a win so it’s disappointing to get a draw.
“If we stuck to our game plan and kept the ball on the deck we knew we would get the chances. It was about being patient and we created a lot of chances we just needed to take them.”
Harps deservedly opened the scoring on 20 minutes after Dave Scully’s thunderous strike from just inside the penalty area crashed off the underside of the crossbar and the rebound fell kindly to the unmarked Curran who headed into the net.
That goal seemed to finally spark Derry into life and when Patrick McClean’s cross was chested into the path of McNamee by Patterson, the midfielder’s first time strike was parried away by Ciaran Gallagher.
Patterson really should have equalised on 28 minutes when Keith Ward found him lurking on the edge of the penalty area but he screwed his shot wide of the goal as Gallagher came scurrying out of his net.
Patterson was brought down 20 yards from the Harps goal by Packie Mailey but Ward sent the resultant free-kick harmlessly over the bar.
From a well worked corner just before half-time, McNamee found Ronan Curtis free 25 yards from goal but his low shot was saved at the second attempt by Gallagher.
The home side started the second half brightly and Conor McCormack found Ward with a beautifully crafted pass in behind the Harps defence but his shot was saved well by Gallagher.
Niclas Vemmelund and Curtis then curled their respective efforts wide of the target as Derry turned up the heat.
Gallagher then came to Harps rescue on 70 minutes when Ward’s deflected shot fell to the feet of Curtis and the Harps keeper stood tall to palm away the winger’s close range strike.
Harps were soaking up the pressure and almost caught Derry on the break as Adam Hanlon scampered clear but his shot was pushed away superbly by Doherty.
Moments later Vemmelund whipped in a cross from the right and substitute Dean Jarvis’ downward header from four yards was somehow cleared off the line by Gallagher.
It was only a matter of time before Derry broke down the resolute Harps defence and the equaliser arrived six minutes from time.
Boyle’s cross in from the right came to fellow substitute, Daniels who slotted into the net at the far post.
And four minutes later Daniels cut the ball back to Patterson who arrowed his shot into the far corner of the net - his seventh of the season! But Harps hit back in stoppage time when Funston’s cross was headed into the net by the unmarked Houston as Derry dropped to fourth in the table.
Derry City: G. Doherty; N. Vemmelund, R. McBride, A. Barry, P. McClean (D. Jarvis h-t); C. McCormack, A. McEneff; K. Ward (J. Daniels 78), B. McNamee, R. Curtis (N. Boyle 78); R. Patterson; Subs Not Used - S. Patton, R. Doherty, C. McDermott, J. Allen.
Finn Harps: C. Gallagher; D. McNulty, K. Cowan, P. Mailey, C. Coll; A. Hanlon (M. Funston 86), S. Houston, B. Molloy (K. McHugh 89), T. McNamee (E. Boyle 74), R., Curran; D. Scully; Subs Not Used - R. Brush, T. McMonagle, R. McConnell,L. Flatley.
Referee - Neil Doyle.