The mini revival that Derry City had enjoyed under new manager Ruaidhri Higgins came to an end at his first home game in charge at the Brandywell when they went down 2-1 to Finn Harps in the North West derby.
Both sides were playing their third game in a week, so squad rotation was inevitable for both outfits, Derry leaving Jack Malone and David Parkhouse on the bench in favour of Brendan Barr and Joe Thompson.
Finn Harps however started with Martin Russell, Stephen Folan and Tunde Owolabi in place of John Dunleavy, Ethan Boyle and Stephen Doherty.
Harps were the dominant side in the opening stages of the match, their five at the back defensive formation making it very difficult for the home side to make any inroads, while at the other end they created a number of chances which would have given them a deserved lead.
Barry McNamee put a chance wide of the post as early as the 4th minute when he should have at least hit the target while in the 13th minute Tunde Owloabi, making his first start, drew a very good save from Northern Ireland International Nathan Gartside in the Derry goal.
Mark Coyle and McNamee were bossing the midfield exchanges in the opening quarter of the match and their efforts combined with the good hold up play by Owolabi meant they were camped in the Derry half, forcing seven corners in the first 25 minutes but failing to convert any of them.
Derry had a rare foray into the opposition half in the 16th minute and completely against the run of play they managed to take the lead. Will Patching, on loan from Dundalk, fed the ball to James Akintunde on the left flank, he cut inside two defenders and struck a well-placed shot into the right -hand corner of the goal, out of reach of Mark McGinley.
The game became very scrappy for the remainder of the first half, and the worsening weather conditions did not help, the wind and rain driving down into the players faces up to half time.
Harps did continue to dominate possession but lacked a cutting edge up front, while Derry struggled to string passes together, Patching’s influence waning after a bright opening quarter.
Harps did have one great chance to go ahead in the 44th minute when USA- born Will Seymore crashed a great shot off the cross bar from just inside the half way line, it would have been no more than they deserved had it been a goal.
Harps continued to boss the game in the second half and it was no surprise when they eventually drew level in the 53rd minute.
Owolabi was fouled on the edge of the box and while McNamee’s free kick was partially cleared by the Derry defence, Karl O Sullivan was in the right place to force it home from 2 meters, a goal Ollie Horgan’s side more than deserved.
Harps continued to press forward after their equaliser, forcing another series of corners, they had 11 in total by the 56th minute, but were unable to profit from any of them.
It was left to Derry’s leading scorer, Cameron McJannet, a defender, to create the opportunity for Derry’s first corner in the 58th minute, he strode forward from midfield to try his luck on goal only for his shot to be parried by McGinley.
Derry did have two great chances to wrap it up in the closing stages of the match.
In the 75th minute, a breakaway attack led to substitute David Parkhouse and right winger Will Fitzgerald each having a chance to attempt a shot on goal, but both hesitated too long on the ball and the opportunity was wasted.
In the 84th minute they had an even better chance to get the winner, Fitzgerald split the defence with a cut back ball to substitute Jack Malone but while he was on target the ball hit the post and was then cleared to safety by Harps.
Harps got the winner in the 88th minute, Barry McNamee, who was probably Harps most influential player over the course of the match, took the ball into the Derry box before slipping a pass to Adam Foley who gleefully powered the ball past Gartside.
Derry had one final chance to level matters at the death, Eoin Toal’s 96th minute header from their last corner hit the post and was cleared by the Harps defence.
This was a historic night for Finn Harps as it was their first ever league victory at the Brandywell Stadium while the three points gained leaves them well positioned in 4th place in the league table on 14 points.
Derry City meanwhile have a lot of ground to make up to get back into top 4 contention, they sit in 8th place in the table on 8 points after the conclusion of the first round of nine fixtures in the SSE Airtricity Premier Division.
Derry City: Nathan Gartside; Eoin Toal©, Cameron McJannet, Daniel Lafferty, Ronan Boyce, Brendan Barr (David Parkhouse, 58), Joe Thompson (Jack Malone, 68), Will Patching, Ciaran Harkin (Patrick Ferry, 89), William Fitzgerald, James Akintunde.
Subs not used: Jack Lemoigan (gk); Danny Lupano, Mark McChrystal, Mark McFadden, Caolan McGlaughlin. Michael Glynn
Booked: Brendan Barr (36), David Parkhouse (73), Daniel Lafferty (93).
Finn Harps: Mark McGinley (gk); David Webster © (Ethan Boyle, 65), Kosovar Sadiki, Stephen Folan, Will Seymore, Mark Russell, Karl O Sullivan, Barry McNamee (Tony McNamee 89), Adam Foley, Mark Coyle, Tunde Owolabi (Jamie Browne, 81).
Subs not used: Luke McNicholas (gk); Joel Bradley Walsh, Niall McGinley, Stephen Doherty, Ryan Rainey.
Booked: Tunde Owolabi (47).
Referee: Paul McLoughlin
Extratime.com Player of the Match: Barry McNamee (Finn Harps)
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