Finn Harps facing fight to steer clear of relegation zone
Finn Harps boss Ollie Horgan will be hoping that the lack of atmosphere at Finn Park on Sunday is not a factor as the Donegal side host Cork City in the SSE Airtricty League Premier Division basement battle. Kick-off is 5pm.
Harps go into the game a point ahead of their troubled opponents, and in normal circumstances there would be a bumper crowd given the importance of the occasion.
But the Covid-19 blighted season means that restrictions are still in place and this can be a disadvantage for home teams.
“It’s a big miss not having supporters at home,” Horgan acknowledged this week. "There is no doubt that a home crowd can roar you on," he said, adding that this is especially the case when you are putting the pressure on.
But there is little he can do about it as the team has prepared for “the huge” game against the Leesiders.
While there are still five more games to go after this one for Harps, the outcome will have a massive bearing on who finishes bottom - which means automatic relegation - and who ends up second from bottom, which leads to a two-legged play-off against whoever emerges from the Division One play-offs.
Cork beat Harps 1-0 in controversial circumstances earlier in the season at Turner’s Cross.
And, significantly, they have a game in hand on Harps.
If Cork win, Harps will have the proverbial mountain to climb.
But if Harps win, it will give them a small bit of daylight.
Looking ahead to Sunday’s game City boss Neale Fenn told the club website: “It’s definitely a must not lose game.
''I don’t think it will end the season either way, if we win or lose it. It’s certainly a game we will go up and do our best in.
''I’ve listened to a lot of people say that Finn Harps are better equipped to win these types of games than us, so they’ll be looking at it thinking that Harps will be expected to win it, so it’s nice for us to not have the pressure on us.”
And he added: “Training has been good, we’ve done a lot of work on how we’re going to play and we’ve done a lot of work on Finn Harps.
''Not having a game last weekend gave us a little bit of time to have some more bodies available to us.”
In their last outing, Cork were defeated 3-0 by league leaders Shamrock Rovers. City have yet to win away from home this season.
Harps' remaining games are away to Dundalk and Bohemians and home to Shamrock Rovers, St. Patrick's Athletic and then, on the final day of the league campaign, against Waterford. They also have an FAI Cup quarter-final to look forward to after the league finishes.
Cork, meanwhile, must still host St. Patrick's Athletic, Waterford and Derry City. After Harps, they must also travel to take on Bohemians and Sligo Rovers.
Harps go into the game with a near-full strength squad to choose from Henry Ochieng is suspended for Cork.