Derry City watched on as their lead was reduced to three points by Shamrock Rovers in the SSE Airtricity Premier Division on Friday night and they face a stern test in the first north-west derby fixture of the season with Finn Harps this evening.

The Candystripes have enjoyed a dream start to 2022 as they sit top of the table, aiming to complete a full series of matches unbeaten with this game with the local rivals.

Ruaidhri Higgins' side have dropped points on just two occasions, early in the year, at home to Sligo Rovers and away to Dundalk.

Since that it was been all victories for City, albeit tainted by injuries to Ciaron Harkin and Michael Duffy.

In making such an impressive start, it’s undoubtedly the top prize in the country in their sights now.

They’ll be backed by a sold out away allocation in Finn Harps with thousands of fans set to be present in Ballybofey.

Finn Harps have warmed to the task in the league after making a much slower start.

They were closing on a second win of the campaign last Monday until a late Drogheda United goal in what was an end-to-end game in Finn Park.

It will be another season of trying to avoid the drop and given Ollie Horgan has had to bed in a host of new players from abroad, he’ll know their points total is sufficient for staying in touch with their rivals.

Harps’ best performances are yet to come but the signs are good, particularly with the likes of Barry McNamee putting in such eye-catching displays last Monday.

The derby spoils were shared last season - a win apiece and two draws - but Ruaidhri Higgins has dismissed suggestions from his opposite number Ollie Horgan that the visitors are clear favourites now.

"Ollie's a brilliant manager who works extremely hard and he will have his team well prepared for the game," he said.

Ollie Horgan says the gap with Derry has widened again

"Finn Harps have improved massively under him over the years.

"He's playing it down, but there's not a chance he doesn't believe they can beat us in Ballybofey - of course he believes they can.

"We're not getting carried away with ourselves. We're eight games into a 36 game season but we've made a good start and we're keen to keep going.

"There's an extra edge because it's a derby but we've prepared the same way we do for every game.

"We'll go there and try to be professional as we always do and look to send our fans home happy."

The Derry boss has no new injury concerns following last Monday’s comfortable win in Belfield.

Harps have doubts over the availability of Regan Donelon, Rob Slevin and David Webster.

Alluding to the competitive distance between his club and Derry, Horgan said: "It'll be a huge occasion. I think if you look at the last couple of seasons, we had bridged the gap that had been there before and were able to give every bit as good as we got.

"I think if we’re being honest, when you look at the quality Ruaidhri and his staff have brought in, that gap has probably widened once again and we’ll be up against it on Saturday night."

Kick-off is 5.30pm.

Republic of Ireland international Liam Kerrigan faces his hometown club tonight

UCD are also back in action tonight as they travel to The Showgrounds to face a Sligo Rovers side reeling from a very bad week.

Two home defeats have seen Sligo lose momentum and fall eights points behind Derry at the top.

Liam Buckley will be keen to turn things around and on paper at least it’s a big opportunity to do so given College’s struggles so far this season include losing all four away games.

The worrying aspect for the Bit O’ Red is they’ve struggled when going a goal down and the similarities in the 1-0 losses to Shelbourne and Bohemians were clear.

The first goal may be critical this evening as Buckley has said.

"While the results didn't go for us, they were two very tight games and as I have said many times the first goal in this league is important so we will be looking to come out do that tomorrow night and attack from the start," he said.

"As the table shows it is so tight and we want to make sure if a gap does start appearing that we are on the right side of it."

In-form Sligo striker Aidan Keena will be assessed ahead of kick off as he recovers from a leg injury.

Former Rovers players Liam Kerrigan and Jack Keaney will return to the clubs in which they made their breakthroughs in the league.

Andy Myler is looking to see his side eradicate the errors which has seen them concede 11 times in four away games so far.

As they sit bottom of the table, he knows improvement is needed in order not to be cut adrift and secure a first three points of the campaign.

He told RTE Sport: "Listen, we've talked about learning quickly and we're nearly one series through. Individual mistakes and errors are killing us in games where we're playing relatively well but getting hurt by those one or two moments because we're playing better opposition than last year.

"We need to rectify that. Young players and so on, you can get caught up in the cliches of that. But we need to be better."