Finn Harps will be looking to extend their unbeaten start to the season to five league games when they make the trip to the UCD Bowl on Friday evening (kick-off 7.45pm).
While Harps have got off to a flyer this year, UCD on the other hand have struggled somewhat since their relegation from the top flight last year. Although they won their opening day fixture away to Cobh Ramblers, they have since suffered four straight defeats including three at home to Shelbourne and Athlone Town in the League and Cabinteely in the League Cup.
Last weekend, they lost 1-0 at Wexford Youths with Danny Furlong scoring the only goal of the game after just 45 seconds.
However, despite the ‘students’ stuttering start to the season, Harps boss Ollie Horgan is expecting a tough encounter at Belfield on Friday.
“UCD always play great football”, said Horgan. “They have very talented young players in the squad added to the likes of more experienced lads in Michael Leahy, Chris Mulhall and Robbie Benson who for me is the best player in the First Division.
“We will have our work cut out to get possession of the ball - let alone get something out of the game,” continued the Harps boss.
For the third game in a row, Harps recorded a 2-0 victory last weekend with Cobh Ramblers the team on the wrong side of that scoreline last Friday. However, the result was nowhere near as comfortable as the scoreline suggested.
“We struggled for long periods in the second half, even against ten men, and we wouldn’t be complaining too much had Cobh got an equaliser with their second half performance,” said Horgan of the game.
“It was great to pick up a win, regardless of the performance, although it came at a cost with Gareth Harkin suffering a worrying knee injury. We were lucky to win with our second half performance but we started the game well and might have scored a second before hal-time.
“Cobh though put in a brilliant second half performance with ten men and probably deserved a point with that display.”
Harps have yet to concede a goal in this season’s First Division, but Horgan said that much of this is down to good luck on his sides part, and not courtesy of great defending.
“As regards the clean sheet, Cobh had a goal disallowed where we should have defended better - and a number of other occasions in the match as well.”
Packie Mailey remains sidelined, while he will be joined by Gareth Harkin and Ruairi Keating who will also miss Friday’s game through injury.
Wilfried Tagbo, who scored his first goal for the club against Cobh last Friday is likely to get the nod again in place of Keating, while Kevin McHugh will also be pushing for a start after he scored from the bench against Cobh.
It’s six years since Harps last met UCD in any competition. The most recent meeting was in September 2009 when the students ran out 5-0 winners at Finn Park on their way to gaining promotion to the Premier Division.
Harps’ don’t have the best of records at the Belfield venue with their last victory coming courtesy of Shane Bradley’s goal in the FAI Cup Quarter-Final in March 1998. Since then, the 10 games at Belfield have seen Friday’s hosts hold the upper hand – winning five and drawing five of the games.