Will Patching reckons Finn Harps derby is perfect remedy for Derry City's Euro hangover

WILL Patching believes Derry City can take confidence from their performance in Riga as a clash with their derby rivals in Ballybofey this evening offers the perfect tonic for any European hangover.

By Simon Collins
Sunday, 17th July 2022, 12:49 pm
Updated Sunday, 17th July 2022, 12:53 pm

The Brandywell club's domestic campaign resumes following their first round exit in the UEFA Europa Conference League and Patching hopes the team can now go on a winning run in the league which will ensure qualification for a second European experience with Derry next season.

The Candy Stripes arrived home from Riga on Friday morning and have had just three days to prepare to renew rivalries with Finn Harps, however, Patching, who was one of the stand-out performers in the Latvian capital, says the players are 'raring to go'.

"The way we played in Riga is only going to give us confidence that we can do that in the league," said Patching who has scored four times for Derry against Harps including a stunning free kick in the 88th minute when they last met at Finn Park back in April.

The Englishman, who struck the crossbar with a terrific strike towards the end of the tie in Riga, was 'gutted' with the 4-0 aggregate loss to the Latvians having felt Derry deserved more from the return leg.

"It definitely wasn't a fair reflection," claimed Patching. "The scoreline just reflects how ruthless they were. Nearly every chance they got they took whereas we knew we had to score first, we came out created chances and played brilliantly and just couldn't get the ball in the net and that was the difference in the end.

"It just wasn't falling for us. I had the chance where I hit the bar at the end. On another day it goes in the top corner. I suppose you could say we were unlucky but we've got to learn to take our chances.

"It makes it more annoying because you only get one shot in Europe unless, hopefully, you qualify the next year. Whereas in the league you go again the next week so it's gutting.

Will Patching celebrates his goal against Finn Harps in Ballybofey last April. Photo by Kevin Moore.

"Our general play was great. On a pitch like that on a stadium like that it's always nice to play in and we've got players who want to move the ball on those kinds of surfaces.

"All the fans travelled over and were absolutely class. They made a lot of noise home and away which was unbelievable and it's just gutting that we couldn't give them something to cheer about."

There promises to be another large travelling support in Ballybofey this evening and while the pitch won't be the same quality as it was in the Skonto Stadium, Patching insists there's no reason why they can't reproduce the type of football which left Riga stunned and on the backfoot during the opening 30 minutes of Thursday's match.

"If we can put in performances like that against a top class team like Riga, then why can't we dominate games when we're back home against teams in our league? So we'll be raring to go come Sunday and hopefully we can go on a bit of a run now until the end of the season.

Will Patching leads the Derry City players towards the travelling fans in Riga after the Candy Stripes' defeat in Europe. Photo by Kevin Moore.

"It's back to focusing on the league now and if we want to be back in this position next year, playing in Europe then the biggest game we've got is on Sunday against Finn Harps," he stressed.

"As I said, we'll be raring to go and keep trying to climb up the league table to get into this position again next year."

Victory in Ballybofey would move Derry above Dundalk and back up to second in the table and they've been greatly strengthened not only by the arrival of new signings Sadou Diallo - a former Man City Academy teammate of Patching - and Ryan Graydon but also the return to fitness of Michael Duffy who played the final 17 minutes of the away tie in Riga.

Patching is delighted his former Dundalk teammate is back in action after an 'unbelievable' recovery from a broken leg sustained against Drogheda at Brandywell on March 14th.

He reckons Duffy's return to the team will help players like Patrick McEleney and himself take their game to the next level.

"It's unbelievable how he's come back, probably ahead of his schedule. It just shows how hardworking he is off the pitch as well with the rehab he's been doing. Himself and Mickey (Hegarty) have been class together.

"It's unbelievable to have him back, for players like myself and 'Fats' who can play those balls in behind for him to feed on. We link up well so we're delighted he's back and hopefully he can be another great addition to the team."

Derry City boss Ruaidhri Higgins was also delighted to welcome Duffy back into the fold, a sight he believed would've been well received by Derry fans.

"It's great to see him on the pitch," said the City boss. "He's worked extremely hard. It's been tough and the first time he's had this setback in his career. But he's worked unbelievably hard and ticked all the boxes as we have been really careful in how we introduce him to the team. It's great to see him back in action. It's a nice sight I suppose for every Derry City supporter to see."

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