FINN HARPS 1 WEXFORD YOUTHS 0
BY CHRIS MCNULTY AT FINN PARK
KEVIN McHugh netted the only goal of the game as Finn Harps finally returned to winning ways tonight.
The Killea man’s goal mightn’t have been the most memorable of strikes he’ll ever get, but it matters not a jot as Harps collected their first win in eight League games to move above Wexford and into fifth spot in the First Division standings.
The winner came just three minutes into the second half.
Michael Funston made the break, knifing through the middle and it was from here that Harps could make the telling incision. Full-back James Doherty scampered into the box before drilling low across goal.
His inviting centre was, somehow, missed by Paul McVeigh, but poacher-supreme McHugh was on hand to ease the tension with his seventh of the season, his first since early May.
The goal brought welcome relief around a sparsely-populated Finn Park.
Without a League win in 10 weeks – since a 1-0 win over Mervue in May – Harps had claimed just two points from a possible 21 since, with an FAI Cup win against Wexford their only success in the intervening weeks.
The miserable run of results was in keeping with Friday evening’s weather conditions and those factors, along with the Foyle Cup tournament in Derry, resulting in one of the lowest attendances seen at the venue in some time.
With a total attendance of barely 200 that included sponsors, season ticket holders, children and guests, it surely made for a nervous and worrying evening for the bean counters on Navenny Street
Having been embarrassingly hammered 4-0 by Mervue United last Friday night it was no surprise that there were sweeping changes in the home side’s personnel tonight.
Funston, McVeigh, Thomas McMonagle, Keith Cowan and Micheál Doherty were all brought back into a team that was under the direction of Sean ‘Wizard’ McGowan, with the team manager, Peter Hutton, on holidays.
The opening brought the sort of fare expected from two teams struggling for form and lacking in confidence.
Danny Fitzpatrick had the game’s first purposeful effort, but Ciaran Gallagher flung himself out to his left to save.
In a half of few clear-cut openings, it was Harps who had the better openings but there was again a frustrating lack of a cutting edge in the three-pronged front line.
Harps should have gone in front when Mark Forker dispossessed the sloppy Delaney, only to curl wide from a glorious position 12 yards out.
That came after Funston broke inside the right channel to get on the end of a crisp James Doherty pass, but on that occasion Delaney had stood firm to divert the ball out for a corner.
Earlier, Kevin McHugh had cut in dangerously, before being denied by Graham Doyle with a subsequent header by McVeigh lacking conviction.
At the close of the half, McVeigh’s sweeping cross was met by an in-rushing Funston, but he headed over.
McVeigh’s was a frustrating evening, the young Fanad man having a couple of half chances in the moment’s after McHugh’s opener with the run of the ball just not falling his way.
Doherty and Funston, who had combined so well for the goal, got together again in the 75th minute, but no-one was on the same wavelength as Funston’s powerful cross.
Harps went in search of the clincher, but McHugh’s shot was deflected out by Rob Maloney while Wexford foraged only fleetingly, restricted largely to long-range efforts and a Delaney free-kick was the best they could muster, though Gallagher got down well to save.
The over-riding emotion was one of relief at the conclusion as Harps move into fifth, five points off Waterford United, who are third, in the second of the play-off positions.
Finn Harps: Ciaran Gallagher; James Doherty, Keith Cowan, Thomas McMonagle, Ciaran Coll; Michael Funston, Mark Forker, Shaun McGowan; Paul McVeigh, Kevin McHugh, Micheál Doherty. Subs: Johnny Bonner for M.Doherty (77 mins), Thomas Bonnar for Forker (82 mins), Aaron O’Hagan for Funston (90 mins).
Wexford Youths: Graham Doyle; Jonathan Savage, Gary Delaney, Rob Maloney, James Dermody; Danny Fitzpatrick, Donal Sharkey, Caolan O’Gorman, Brian Nolan, Daryl Power; Graham Delaney. Subs: Craig McCabe for Dermody (19 mins), Shane Nolan for O’Gorman (64 mins), Joe Mulcahy for Power (64 mins).
Referee: Conor Fitzgerald (Dublin).