Finn Harps will look to right the wrongs of their disappointing away draw to Wexford with a convincing home win against Athlone Town side at Finn Park on Friday night (kick-off 8pm).
It was a night to forget last time these two sides met for Finn Harps as Ollie Horgan’s misfiring Harps side could only manage a frustrating draw against the then-Aaron Callaghan-managed side.
Michael O’Connor spared Finn Harps’ blushes as the on-loan Shamrock Rovers hitman drew the sides level late on after Shane Stokes put the midlanders into an unlikely lead at the Athlone Town Stadium.
The Donegal side have been inconsistent since and flattered to deceive as the pre-season title hopefuls lie just outside the playoff places as we approach the critical turning point of the season.
Speaking ahead of the game, Harps boss Ollie Horgan spoke at length regarding the importance of this weekend’s games as Athlone and Longford make the long trip up to Ballybofey.
He said: “We have two crucial games over the weekend and it would be great to see a big support out to back the lads as we need to that in order to be in with a chance of winning both games.
“We’re fifth in the table and in among five or six sides that are challenging to be in contention to go up when it comes to the closing stages of the season.
“[Athlone] were looking good for a win at one stage as they led for nearly 40 minutes of the game and could have gone 2-0.
“But a draw was a good result against Longford who are a team that I rate highly and should be challenging for promotion in the closing stages of the season.
“Lads like Shane Stokes and Aaron Brilly know what this league is about, so they have to be respected. We really have to be on our game tomorrow night to get a result.
“The standard has to be upped and our finishing has to improve because there have been decent chances that have not been taken in the last couple of games.”
Midfielders Mark Coyle and Tommy McBride both return to the fold after suspensions while Gareth Harkin is a doubt having just returned from a recent spell on the side-lines.
However, the quartet of Liam Walsh, Adam Duffy, Mark Timlin and Lee Toland all miss out due to injury.
Looking to build on the point that they picked up during last weekend’s Clasico, Athlone Town will make the long trip up to Finn Park in renewed optimism as Terry Butler’s side look to claw their way off bottom spot.
Athlone’s only other point of the season came against their Donegal opposition at the Athlone Town Stadium as Shane Stokes almost grabbed an unlikely win.
Town do in fact have quite a good record against Harps in recent times as the League of Ireland’s oldest professional side are unbeaten in their last four games against Ollie Horgan’s Harps both home and away.
These games are generally not the most entertaining of affairs as both Harps and Athlone seem to have a recent history of tight games that are generally decided by the odd-goal.
Butler will have no suspension issues to deal with for the long trip up to the north-west as the newly-installed midlanders boss will look to build on some recent positive showings.
Athlone have failed to provide any team news for Friday night’s game.
Finn Harps have the worst discipline in the First Division so far this season, having picked a remarkable 36 yellow cards in 13 league games alongside one red card.
That was brandished to Keith Cowan in a two-one away day defeat to Drogheda United at United Park.
Finn Harps 1/20; Draw 9/1; Athlone Town 25/1.
Finn Harps 4–0 Athlone Town
Injured: Liam Walsh, Adam Duffy, Mark Timlin and Lee Toland.
Doubtful: Gareth Harkin.