SSE Airtricity Premier Division
James Akintunde scored a dramatic 93rd minute winner as Derry City came from behind to beat Finn Harps.
Just three days after playing in Latvia on Europa Conference League duty, the Candystripes somehow turned this game on its head just when it looked as if Rob Jones’ first-half goal would be enough for Harps.
Substitute Ryan Graydon equalised to set up a grandstand finale and Akintunde was there with his fourth goal of the season to send City fans into raptures.
In sweltering heat at Finn Park, Derry controlled possession, making the Harps players chase all over the pitch for the first 25 minutes.
But City were desperately lacking in any threat and there was nothing to threaten the home goal until Matty Smith sent a snapshot just wide from 20 yards.
In contrast, Harps bided their time and stunned Derry by scoring first. It was a simple set-piece which proved City’s undoing with Regan Donelon’s corner kick met by striker Jones, who powered a header past Brian Maher and into the net.
The visitors had justifiable claims for a penalty before half time when Smith was fouled by Ethan Boyle. It looked just inside the area but referee Derek Tomney awarded a free kick right on the edge of the box. To add to Derry’s growing frustration, Will Patching sent the free kick high over the bar.
Ruaidhri Higgins made two changes at half-time, with midfielder Sadou Diallo on for his debut alongside Brandon Kavanagh, in place of Joe Thomson and Danny Lafferty.
Immediately, City looked more threatening, but it wasn’t until a third substitute — Graydon — entered the game that they created a meaningful chance, with the 23-year-old heading over from Patching’s free kick.
Patrick McEleney came so close to scoring with a curling effort from 25 yards, but Mark McGinley parried it over.
The equaliser finally came on 79 minutes. Cameron Dummigan picked out the run of Graydon in behind the Harps defence and the winger beat McGinley to the ball to head into the net.
It was all Derry after that as they pushed for the winner and Harps’ time-wasting tactics cost them dearly, with seven minutes added at the end.
City made the most of that time when Patching’s free kick into a crowded area found Akintunde at the back post and the striker did the rest, heading down into the net to send his team back into second place.
Finn Harps: McGinley, Nicolson (Duncan, 90 mins), Tourish, Slevin, Boyle, Donelon (Hery, 62 mins), Connolly (Mihaljevic, 62 mins), Nzeyi, McNamee (Timlin, 62 mins), Rainey (O’Donnell, 90 mins), Jones.
Derry: Maher, Coll, S McEleney, McJannet, Lafferty (Kavanagh, 46 mins), Dummigan, Thomson (Diallo, 46 mins), Patching, P McEleney, Smith (Graydon, 60 mins) McGonigle (Akintunde, 78 mins).
Referee: Derek Tomney.
Man of the match: Patrick McEleney
Match rating: 8/10