Ruaidhri Higgins hails Pat Hoban pre-season impact at Derry City ahead of Finn Harps friendly

​RUAIDHRI Higgins knew exactly what he was getting when he signed Pat Hoban but even the Derry City boss admits he's been impressed with the rate of progress the former Dundalk striker has made since arriving on Foyleside a fortnight ago.
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​The 32 year-old Galwegian hitman has made a significant impact since joining on a two-year deal from the Lilywhites where he became the club's all-time record goalscorer [150 goals in 296 appearances].

Hoban was a few weeks behind the rest in terms of having a preseason campaign due to his prolonged transfer saga but he showed exactly why he was Higgins' No.1 target when he came off the bench to score twice with two clinical close range finishes against Sligo Rovers in Derry's second pre-season outing at the Showgrounds last Saturday.

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The former Oxford United man was on target again on Tuesday night when he scored the first in a 4-0 victory over Glenavon at a stormy Mourneview Park to take his preseason tally to three.

Derry City fans will get a first glimpse of Hoban in the red and white Candy Stripes at Brandywell tonight when Higgins' troops entertain Finn Harps for the second time in two weeks [Kick-off 7.30 pm.].

He's expected to get at least another 45 minutes under his belt which would be considered a productive week according to the City boss who has given his big No.9 a glowing preseason report so far.

"I know Pat and know what he's all about and know what energises him and gets him motivated and he's been excellent since he's come in the door both on and off the pitch," said Higgins.

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"He's been excellent and will probably get another 45 minutes on Friday which will take it to, hopefully, 135 minutes for the week which would be a good week for him and then we can hopefully start building him up over the last couple of weeks.

Pat Hoban has hit the ground running in preseason.Pat Hoban has hit the ground running in preseason.
Pat Hoban has hit the ground running in preseason.

"He's taken his goals brilliantly and we're delighted with where he's at. He's definitely got the bit between his teeth and stuff, you can see that."

Tonight's visit of North West neighbours Finn Harps to Brandywell will be the first of Derry's preseason friendlies at the venue.

And having battled the elements and heavy pitches at Finn Park and Mourneview, Higgins is looking forward to seeing his team play in front of a decent home support and on a much quicker surface on the Brandywell's 4G.

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"It's good to have a home game. We've played on a lot of heavy pitches for the first few games and hopefully there's a bit of zip on the pitch given the weather and the ball moves quickly on it and hopefully we can play some good football and give the supporters something to look forward to coming up to the start of the season."

Overall, preseason has gone to plan despite minor knocks and injuries sustained to the likes of Will Patching, Adam O'Reilly and Danny Mullen.

"We're glad we've got the games that we've had. A few of them were in doubt with the weather but we got them on so we're happy we have three games under our belt already with a few more to come.

"We're happy with where it's at and I think we'll get even sharper over the coming weeks. A few players have had very minor niggles and hopefully they're not too far away either. We hope to introduce them in the coming weeks.

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"This week is probably a wee bit too soon for some of them but a lot of them are on the pitch doing stuff and we hope to introduce the majority of them over the next seven to 10 days."

Hoban, Paul McMullan and youngsters Sean Patton and Tiernan McGinty both netted goals in the 4-0 win over the Lurgan Blues in atrocious weather conditions on Tuesday as gale force winds and driving rain swept over Mourneview Park.

Despite Storm Jocelyn's attempts to wreak havoc, it proved a productive night at the office for Higgins who has been impressed by the performances of the club's teenage talent.

"Considering the conditions it was a good run out. We probably started the game a wee bit slow and after 15 or 20 minutes we got to grips with the game and played well from then on in.

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"It's great to get another 45 minutes into Pat and Patrick [McEleney] and Daniel Kelly who we've been managing a bit so it was a good night overall and we didn't leave with any fresh injuries which is obviously a positive.

"The young lads have been really, really impressive so far in preseason. You add Luke O'Donnell, Conor Barr, Calum McCay, Daithi McCallion into the mix and they've all done really well. “They've got the respect of the senior players as well which shows the ability they have."