Relegation threatened Finn Harps take on the challenge of mid-table Shelbourne in a vital encounter in the SSE Airtricity Premier Division at Finn Park tomorrow afternoon (kick-off 5.45pm).
Harps will be seeking a morale boosting home win with victory over Shels which would see the men from Ballybofey leapfrog their illustrious opponents in the league table.
Ollie Horgan's side need to pick themselves up and dust themselves off after the disappointment of their comprehensive 3-1 defeat to Shamrock Rovers at the Tallaght Stadium last Saturday afternoon in their first match since the resumption of the league having been on hiatus since early March due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Rovers hit the ground running and raced into a very early lead courtesy of a Jack Byrne goal after just six minutes and the Hoops took full control after that and doubled their advantage ten minutes later with a goal from Dylan Watts.
Harps simply had no answer to the wave after wave of Rovers attacks and the result was put beyond doubt when Aaron McEneff made it 3-0 in the 37th minute. Karl O’Sullivan did give the visitors brief hope just two minutes later to leave the Hoops with a commanding 3-1 lead at the break.
Finn Harps couldn’t be faulted for endeavour in the second half but just lacked the extra bit of quality and nous to unlock the Rovers defence and get something from the game. Both sides tired after the interval and the lack of match fitness became evident with Rovers closing out the game comfortably to maintain their 100% record and leave the Harps sitting just a point off the bottom.
The defeat was Finn Harps third consecutive loss in a row in the league after a promising start to the campaign having taken four points from their first two matches with a 1-0 win over Sligo Rovers at Finn Park and followed that up with a well-earned 1-1 draw against near rivals Derry City at the Brandywell.
“We’re obviously delighted to have the football back but it is a major blow for us that we can’t have the same home crowd in Ballybofey," said Horgan ahead of Shels' arrival.
"Our fans have been excellent down through the years and have probably kept us in the division or got us back into it when we went down so that will certainly be a loss to us.”
Shels will make the long and arduous journey to the North West seeking to get their league season back on track and stop the rot by getting a positive result in Ballybofey to take back to the capital with them.
Ian Morris’ side can consider themselves somewhat unfortunate not to come away with something for their efforts when they succumbed to a narrow 1-0 defeat at the hands of Waterford at Tolka Park last Saturday afternoon.
It was a cagey tight affair with both sides cancelling each other out early on but the Drumcondra side were stunned when the Blues hit the front with a goal from John Martin in the 15th minute. Shels huffed and puffed but were unable to take the chances that came their way and the Decies managed to hang on to earn a vital away win and push themselves into contention for a Europa League spot.
Despite the defeat Shels boss Ian Morris is in buoyant mood ahead of the clash with Finn Harps telling www.shelbournefc.ie, “With such a short amount of games, every single one is important. There is no time to feel sorry for ourselves. We’ve done our preparation well ahead of Tuesday. The lads looked bright and bouncy in training.”
Speaking ahead of the game against the Harps, Ian Morris is expecting a bruising physical encounter saying to www.shelbournefc.ie, “It could be a pure battle, one where we dig into the trenches, dig in and put the foot or head in where it hurts,”
Shelbourne had taken well to life back in the SSE Airtricity Premier Division having taken six points out of a possible nine in their first three matches with wins over Cork City (0-1) and St. Patrick’s Athletic (1-0) but the defeat to Waterford was their second on the spin and they will be determined to avoid making it a hat-trick on Tuesday in Ballybofey.
Shelbourne boss Morris has a few selection headaches for tomorrow night’s match with both Shane Farrell and Daniel McKenna unavailable due to injury but should be in contention for Saturday’s game against Sligo Rovers. There are also some minor knocks that some of the squad sustained that the Shels boss will be sweating over.
Referee: Damien McGraith
Finn Harps and Shelbourne last met each other in the 2018 season in the SSE Airtricity First Division with nothing to choose between the teams with the three matches all ending in a draw (1-1, 0-0 and 0-0).
Since 2007 the Harps and Shels have met each other 24 times with Shelbourne having the marginally better head to head record with nine wins to Finn Harps seven with 8 draws.
Finn Harps scored 22 goals averaging 0.9 per game while Shelbourne scored 31 goals averaging 1.3 per game.
Finn Harps are currently in 8th place in the SSE Airtricity Premier Division on 4 points with one win, one draw and 3 defeats in their 5 matches.
Shelbourne are currently in 6th place in the SSE Airtricity Premier Division on 6 points with 2 wins and 3 defeats from their 5 matches.
Finn Harps 13/8 Draw 15/8 Shelbourne 13/8
Finn Harps 1-2 Shelbourne
Injured: Shane Farrell, Daniel McKenna.