WILL PATCHING’s stunning free-kick sealed a fighting victory for Derry City in the North West derby at Ballybofey, which saw Ruaidhri Higgins’ troops edging Finn Harps to sixth place in the standings.
The City playmaker’s time in form with the Brandywell club could 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 scored from the penalty spot when David Parkhouse was fouled by Ethan Boyle in the eight minute mark, but right-back Finn Harps made amends by scoring with a header from close range eight minutes longer. late to tie the game.
The Derry top scorer then brought his season tally to SIX with a sublime free kick into the top corner of the net 60 seconds before halftime for the fifth win in six away games under Higgins.
It’s a remarkable record with 16 out of 18 possible points and the three points earned in front of 100 fans at Finn Park will be cherished as Brandywell’s side secured retaliation for the derby loss at Foyleside in May.
Ruaidhri Higgins made two changes to the squad that drew the Bohemians at Brandywell in their last outing with Will Patching back in the starting lineup for the first time in five games 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 fell on the bench.
Ollie Horgan meanwhile brought Johnny Dunleavy for David Webster in the only change from their excellent 1-1 draw with Shamrock Rovers at Tallaght last weekend.
Harps got off to a good start with Babatunde looking like a real threat and when Mark Coyle played a search ball over Derry’s defense in the second minute, the Belgian striker came in behind Cameron McJannet but shot harmlessly in the over the bar at a tight angle.
It was Derry who broke the deadlock, however, in controversial circumstances after match referee Neil Doyle pointed the penalty spot after Ethan Boyle challenged David Parkhouse inside the box six-meter harps. The Harps bench was furious with the decision, but Patching took possession of the ball and expertly concealed the kick for his fifth goal of the season and third on the spot despite the best efforts of Mark Anthony McGinley, who has guessed the right path, and the chorus of sheep noises being oddly made by the home support behind the goal.
That lead didn’t last long as Boyle made amends in the 16th minute of a Barry McNamee corner. Former Derry defender Shane McEleney kept the movement going as he made his way to the crowded goal mouth and when Kosovar Sadiki nodded towards the goal Boyle got up to get the finishing touch and walked away. headed in the top corner for equalization.
Donegal’s men had their tails high and Owolabi proved to be a handful in Derry’s defense as he made space before sending a powerful strike narrowly above the target.
The visitors responded and when Ciaron Harkin received the ball into space in the middle of the park, his first cross into the box was greeted by the Parkhouse boss who took off from the post in the 26th minute.
From a corner of Derry, Harps quickly shattered as Foley ran from inside his own half, ignoring Harkin and McJannet’s attentions as the gap opened up but his low strike grazed the upright.
A savage challenge from Coyle struck Parkhouse on the edge of Harps’ penalty area just after the half hour mark, earning the Harps midfielder a warning. From the resulting free kick Patching’s curling free kick was knocked back to the far post by McGinley.
At the other end, Owalabi turned away from Eoin Toal on the right and ran dangerously towards the goal but his low shot at the near post was superbly returned by Nathan Gartside’s outstretched foot.
Coyle knocked down Patching 20 yards from the Harps’ goal in the 44th minute 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 front foot 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 narrowly deflected and behind for a corner.
Derry center-half McJannet nearly added a third for the visitors in the 58th minute as he climbed the highest to meet Patching’s inswing corner, but his falling header bounced off the crossbar .
Patching was denied a hat trick on another superbly struck free kick in the 68th minute as McGlinley appeared clear as he appeared to squeeze into the near post.
The harps were getting frustrated, but from a corner from Karl O’Sullivan Owolabi’s header was so close to hitting the net, but Gartside breathed a sigh of relief as he sailed wide with 10 minutes to go.
Toal made two imposing defensive heads to eliminate the danger of a long throw-in from Tony McNamee over 85 minutes, but the ball fell gently on Boyle who snatched the ball and sent his effort far from Gartside’s goal then that Derry handled the game superbly to secure the victory.
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): Subtitles not used – L. McNicholas, R. Connolly, J. Bradley Walsh, S. Noir, N. Logue.
City of Derry: 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); Subtitles not used – J. Lemoignan, J. Thomson, M. Walsh, D. Lupano, P. Ferry, C. McLaughlin, B. Barr.