For the second week in a row, Finn Harps are involved in a top two battle as Ollie Horgan’s side aim to finish the first quarter of the season on top of the pile in the First Division.
Having defeated Athlone Town at Finn Park last weekend, it’s the turn of Wexford Youths – who leapfrogged the midlanders last weekend into second spot – to try to end Harps’ unbeaten start to the season when the sides meet at Ferrycarrig Park on Saturday evening.
Wexford are a team that many are tipping to be involved in the shake-up for the First Division title at the end of the season and Harps boss Ollie Horgan is certainly one of those that thinks they have what it takes to make the step up to the top flight.
“I feel Wexford have what it takes to get out of our Division,” said Horgan. “They are physically strong, have some very talented players and have a great workrate about them.
“They finished fourteen points ahead of us last year and Shane Keegan has made some very good additions since.
“Danny Furlong on his own almost scored more than our whole team put together last year. We couldn’t beat them over the four league games last season so we know how tough it will be home or away to Wexford,” he said of Saturday’s game.
Atlhough Wexford lost their opening two games of the season, they have won four on the trot since, including a 4-2 victory at Tolka Park against Shelbourne last Friday, and sit just two points behind Harps ahead of this weekend’s game. Both teams go into the game knowing that victory will guarantee them top spot as the curtain comes down on the first quarter of the campaign.
“Whatever chance we have in any game, if we don’t put an effort in, we will get nothing out of it. We always have had a determination and spirit about us, that is nothing new with us, it is trying to add that extra bit of quality that a lot of other teams have already.”
Harps are the only side who can still boast an unbeaten record in the league, but Horgan feels that on another night that could have ended last Friday night against Athlone Town at Finn Park. However, despite a scare or two, Harps ended the game with all three points after Keith Cowan’s fine headed goal just after the hour mark.
“We had a good result on Friday against Athlone but we ran our luck a bit, especially in the first half,” said Horgan as he reflected on the game.
“Athlone will feel they did enough to win the game or at least get something out of it,” he said.
“We worked hard on Friday, especially without the ball, against a very good Athlone side. Whatever chance we have in any game, if we don’t put an effort in, we will get nothing out of it. We always have had a determination and spirit about us, that is nothing new with us, it is trying to add that extra bit of quality that a lot of other teams have already.”
In addition to having the only unbeaten record in the First Division, Harps also have the best defensive record of any side having conceded just two goals – both coming in the 2-2 draw at the UCD Bowl a fortnight ago. Harps have kept clean sheets in five of their six games to date – however, Horgan has warned that his side is still letting others create opportunities to score that they haven’t always taken.
“Again, as in other games, while we didn’t concede we gave away a lot of chances and also cleared one off the line – and we gave up a number of other chances to Athlone.”
On the team front, Ruairi Keating could miss out again while there are also doubts about Damien McNulty and Gareth Harkin. Packie Mailey remains sidelined.
There wasn’t much between the two clubs in the five meetings last season. The first three all finished in draws while the latter two – both at Ferrycarrig Park – finished in a win apiece. Harps knocked the Youths out of the FAI Cup on a 2-1 scoreline, while revenge was dished out via a 3-0 scoreline at the tail-end of the season as a much changed Harps side, who were preparing for an FAI Cup semi-final against St. Pat’s, suffered the wrath of a Danny Furlong first-half hat-trick.
That FAI Cup victory last season was Harps’ first victory at Ferrycarrig Park in three years. Their last victory in the league at the Wexford venue came courtesy of a Blain Curtis brace in a 2-0 victory in July 2011. Harps’ only other two victories over the Youths at Ferrycarrig Park came during the Youths’ first season in the League in 2007.
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