Back to back defeats to Limerick FC and Mervue United have undone much of Finn Harps’ early season form, resulting in a slide back down the table to sixth position, so anything less than a victory over visiting Athlone Town would damage any lingering promotion hopes for the Donegal club.
Despite the inconsistency of their recent results, Harps lie just four points behind third placed Wexford Youths, and a win on Saturday would, at least, see them move above the visiting Midlanders, who have amassed one point more than Peter Hutton’s side.
Harps’ boss Hutton will once again be without long term absentees Keith Cowan, Stephen O’Donnell and Ciaran Gallagher, while Thomas McBride is suspended. There are also fitness doubts over Adam Clarke, who has a hamstring strain, and Kevin McHugh, who has a calf problem but is expected to feature.
Ahead of the match, Felix Healy, the Finn Harps Director of Football said that better defending at set pieces would see them improve their disappointing league position:
“We have played nine games with a side that's youthful and still evolving. In six of those games we were by far the better side and should have picked up a lot more points than we currently have. Poor defending from set-pieces has cost us several points and we'll need to improve in that particular area if we are to win more games,” said the former Derry City manager.
A 2-1 defeat at home to Longford Town in the Midlands derby last weekend dented Athlone Town’s promotion push but, lying just three points off third place, returning from Ballybofey with a win would breathe life into Athlone’s hopes of Premier Division football next season.
The previous meeting between the sides was settled in Athlone’s favour, when a Noel McGee double saw the Midlanders’ claim a 2-0 win at the Athlone Town Stadium back in March. However, during Mike Kerley’s time as manager it is honours even with both sides winning two games each.
Athlone Town will be without Mark Sherlock who serves a one game suspension following his late dismissal last weekend. Defender Paul Danaher will also miss out having suffered a knee injury at the end of the derby game against Longford which could leave him on the sidelines for up to 8 weeks. Joe Woods, Roy King and Ross Kenny will also miss out yet again through injury.
Referee: Conor Fitzgerald.
Athlone haven’t recorded a victory at Finn Park since October 1992, although four of the last five games in Ballybofey have finished in draws.
Following the 1994/95 season, Finn Harps were denied promotion to the Premier Division by Athlone Town on penalties (5-3) following a scoreless two-legged play-off.
Athlone Town have conceded the fewest number of goals on the road in the First Division, having shipped just three so far.
Finn Harps Evens; Draw 11/5; Athlone Town 5/2.
Despite their recent unpredictable form, with home advantage Finn Harps should prevail. Finn Harps 2-1 Athlone Town.
Finn Harps Injury News: Keith Cowan, Stephen O’Donnell, Ciaran Gallagher.
Finn Harps Suspension News: Thomas McBride.
Athlone Town Injury News: Paul Danaher, Joe Woods, Rory King, Ross Kenny.
Athlone Town Suspension News: Mark Sherlock.