Will Patching double earns derby win for Derry City who leapfrog Finn Harps
Finn Harps 1 Derry City 2
WILL PATCHING's stunning free-kick sealed a battling victory for Derry City in the North West derby at Ballybofey which saw Ruaidhri Higgins' troops leapfrog Finn Harps into sixth place in the table.
The in-form City playmaker's time with the Brandywell club may be coming to an end with a potential swansong against Sligo Rovers next Monday night but his second brace of the season has given the Candy Stripes a real platform as their impressive record on the road continues.
Patching netted from the penalty spot when David Parkhouse was fouled by Ethan Boyle on eight minutes but the Finn Harps right back made amends when scoring from a close range header eight minutes later to level the game.
Derry's top scorer then took his season's tally to SIX with a sublime free-kick into the top corner of the net 60 seconds before the half-time interval for the fifth win from six games away from home under Higgins.
It's a remarkable record with 16 points from a possible 18 and the three points earned in front of 100 fans at Finn Park will be cherished as the Brandywell outfit gained retribution for the derby defeat on Foyleside back in May.
Ruaidhri Higgins made two changes from the team which drew with Bohemians at Brandywell in their last outing with Will Patching returning to the starting line-up for the first time in five matches while Jack Malone made his first start since the 1-1 draw with Longford in early May. Former Harps skipper Ciaran Coll and Joe Thomson dropped to the bench.
Ollie Horgan meanwhile brought Johnny Dunleavy in for David Webster in the only change from their excellent 1-1 draw with Shamrock Rovers in Tallaght last weekend.
Harps made a bright start with Babatunde looking a real threat and when Mark Coyle played a searching ball over the top of the Derry defence in the second minute the Belgian striker got in behind Cameron McJannet but fired harmlessly over the bar from a tight angle.
It was Derry who broke the deadlock, however, in controversial circumstances after match referee Neil Doyle pointed to the penalty spot after Ethan Boyle challenged David Parkhouse inside the Harps six yard box. The Harps bench were furious with the decision but Patching took ownership of the ball and tucked away the spotkick expertly for his fifth goal of the season and his third from the spot despite the best efforts of Mark Anthony McGinley, who guessed the right way, and the chorus of sheep noises bizarrely being made by the home support behind the goal.
That lead didn't last long as Boyle made amends on 16 minutes from a Barry McNamee corner. Former Derry defender Shane McEleney kept the move alive as he headed back towards the crowded goalmouth and when Kosovar Sadiki nodded goalwards Boyle rose to get the final touch and headed into the top corner for the equaliser.
The Donegal men had their tails up and Owolabi was proving a handful for the Derry defence as he made space before sending a powerful strike narrowly over the target.
The visitors responded and when Ciaron Harkin received the ball in space in the middle of the park his first time cross into the box was met by the head of Parkhouse who headed wide of the post on 26 minutes.
From a Derry corner Harps broke quickly as Foley ran from inside his own half, shrugged off the attentions of Harkin and McJannet as the space opened up but his low strike skimmed wide of the upright.
A wild challenge from Coyle clattered Parkhouse on the edge of the Harps penalty area just after the half hour mark earning the Harps midfielder a booking. From the resultant free-kick Patching's curling free-kick was turned behind at the far post by McGinley.
At the other end Owalabi turned away from Eoin Toal wide on the right and raced dangerously towards goal but his low strike at the front post was turned over superbly by the outstretched foot of Nathan Gartside.
Coyle brought down Patching 20 yards from the Harps goal on 44 minutes and the Englishman produced a delicious free-kick into the top corner of the net to put the Candystripes back in front with his SIXTH goal of the campaign.
Harps started the second half on the frontfoot and Foley found himself in space 10 yards from goal when Boyle found him with a cross from the right but the striker's shot on the half volley was deflected narrowly wide and behind for a corner.
Derry centre half McJannet came close to adding a third for the visitors on 58 minute as he rose highest to meet Patching's inswinging corner but his downward header bounced over the crossbar.
Patching was denied a hat-trick from another superbly hit free-kick on 68 minutes as McGlinley parried it clear just as it looked to be sneaking into the near post.
Harps were becoming frustrated but from a Karl O'Sullivan corner Owolabi's glancing header came so close to hitting the net but Gartside breathed a sigh of relief as it sailed wide with 10 minutes to go.
Toal made two towering defensive headers to clear the danger from a Tony McNamee long throw-in on 85 minutes but the ball fell kindly to Boyle who snatched at the ball and sent his effort well wide of Gartside's goal as Derry managed the game superbly to earn the win.
Finn Harps: M. Anthony McGinley: E. Boyle, J. Dunleavy (T. McNamee 82), S. McEleney, K. Sadiki: K. O'Sullivan (S. Boyd 79), W. Seymore, B. McNamee, M. Coyle (C. Barry 58); B. Owolabi, A. Foley (R. Rainey 82): Subs Not Used - L. McNicholas, R. Connolly, J. Bradley Walsh,S. Black, N. Logue.
Derry City: N. Gartside; R. Boyce, E. Toal, C. McJannet, D. Lafferty; W. Fitzgerald, J. Malone (D. Cole 74), C. Harkin, J. Akintunde; W. Patching; D. Parkhouse (C. Coll 85); Subs Not Used - J. Lemoignan, J. Thomson, M. Walsh, D. Lupano, P. Ferry, C. McLaughlin, B. Barr.
Referee - Neil Doyle.