Joe Thomson stunner seals point in feisty North West derby against Finn Harps
Derry City 2 Finn Harps 2
JOE THOMSON's stunning 90th minute strike salvaged a point for Derry City in a feisty North West derby at Brandywell before the Scotsman saw red in a dramatic finale.
Junior Ogedi-Uzokwe gave Derry the perfect start to the match with a magnificent header after 19 minutes.
However, Harps fought back with a superb strike from Jordan Mustoe five minutes before the break and Ryan Rainey put the visitors in front seven minutes into the second half.
Harps keeper Mark Anthony McGinley looked certain to clinch the man of the match award with an excellent double save in the final stages.
And when Thomson found the back of the net to get Derry back on terms, McGinley was sent off for his part in a melee in the Harps goalmouth.
Thomson followed him down the tunnel shortly afterwards but with both teams reduced to 10 men, neither could find a winner in the six minutes of stoppage time.
Just five points separated the teams before kick-off and Ruaidhri Higgins suggested in his pre-match interviews that Harps were 'in the mix' in the race for Europe.
Harps came into the game on the back of a six match winning run in all competitions, a run which included victories over Shamrock Rovers and St Pat's.
Derry were also in impressive form and were searching for their fifth successive league win to enhance their own European qualification chances.
City boss Higgins made three changes from the team which lost to Harps in the FAI Cup in their last outing. Evan McLaughlin, James Akintunde and Cameron McJannet were restored to the starting line-up at the expense of Jamie McGonigle, Bastien Hery and Jack Malone who all dropped to the bench.
Ollie Horgan made just one enforced change with Ethan Boyle replacing the suspended David Webster.
Derry dominated the opening exchanges but apart from allowing McLaughlin time and space for his 25 yard effort which sailed harmlessly high and wide of the goal, the visitors defended comfortably.
When James Akintunde found the run of Danny Lafferty who ghosted in behind the Harps defence and into the penalty area, Mark Anthony McGinley was forced to parry his close range shot away from danger.
Derry broke the deadlock on 19 minutes with Harps temporarily down to 10 men as striker Tunde Owalabi received treatment after a challenge on the halfway line which teh Harps bench felt was a clear foul.
As play continued Thomson sent a superb cross into the penalty area and Junior rose magnificently to head beyond the Harps keeper.
It was no more than Derry deserved but Harps boss Horgan was furious and got involved in a heated exchange with his opposite number. Higgins in the technical area.
Moments later Harps assistant Paul Hegarty was shown a yellow card for dissent after his protests continued.
Junior played McLaughlin through on goal on the left side of the penalty box but the teenager's low strike was saved well by McGinley.
Harps were back on level terms on 40 minutes when ex-Wigan left back Mustoe caught Gartside out with an inswinging strike from the edge of the penalty box which sailed into the top corner.
Derry tried to respond immediately but once again McGinley was equal to McLaughlin's long range effort.
Ronan Boyce came so close to restoring Derry's lead in the final seconds of first half stoppage time when his looping header was cleared off the line by Will Seymore.
McLaughlin almost found the corner of the net with a first time strike on his left foot following a lovely move involving Boyce and Thomson on 52 minutes but the ball bounced the wrong side of the post with McGinley beaten.
Harps got their noses in front for the first time on 62 minutes after an excellent build-up with Seymore crossing low into the box where Rainey was on hand to slot the ball into the corner of the net.
Substitute Jamie McGonigle tried his luck with a well struck half volley from the edge of the area on 68 minutes, forcing McGinley into an excellent save as he turned it behind the post.
From the resultant corner Thomson fired across the face of goal and it was palmed away by McGinley before the danger was cleared.
McGinley came to his side's rescue twice in the space of two minutes with two excellent saves to deny McGonigle.
Firstly Derry substitute Will Fitzgerald sent McGonigle in behind the Harps defence but the advancing McGinley did well to turn behind his strike from 18 yards.
Moments later Akintunde played McGonigle into space with a deft header but the striker was again denied by an outstanding save with the outstretched leg of McGinley.
In a dramatic finale Derry pressed for an equaliser and when the ball fell to Thomson wide inside the Harps penalty area he found the net with a stunning strike.
As the Derry players attempted to get the ball back to re-centre a melee ensured inside behind the net resulting in red cards for Harps keeper McGinley and goalscorer Thomson.
Harps sub, Johnny Dunleavy put on the keeper's jersey for the final minutes of stoppage time but Derry were unable to test him as both teams settled for a share of the spoils.
Derry City: N. Gartside: E. Toal, C. McJannet, C. Coll (W. Fitzgerald 71); R. Boyce, C. Harkin (B. Hery 71), J. Thomson, D. Lafferty; E. McLaughlin (J. McGonigle 63), J. Akintunde (J. Malone 92), J. Ogedi-Uzokwe: Subs Not Used - J. Lemoignan, G. Storey, D. Cole, P. Ferry, C. Porter.
Finn Harps: M. Anthony McGinley; E. Boyle, K. Sadiki, S. McEleney, J. Mustoe (S. Boyd 78) ; M Coyle (J. Dunleavy 86), W. Seymore, B. McNamee, R. Rainey, A. Foley (K. O'Sullivan h-t); T. Owolabi (R. Connolly 79); Subs Not Used - G. Doherty, J. Dunleavy, L. Redden, D. Hawkins, S. Doherty, N. Logue.
Referee - Neil Doyle (Dublin).