WEXFORD YOUTHS 2 FINN HARPS 2
BY BRENDAN FURLONG AT FERRYCARRIG PARK
TOMMY Bonnar became the latest Finn Harps player to receive a red card on Friday night when a last-gasp equaliser from defender Packie Mailey earned Ollie Horgan’s side a share of the spoils against Wexford Youths.
The home side missed a golden opportunity to move three points off the leaders, Shelbourne, when Mailey struck two minutes into additional time following a pulsating second half.
It was a case of deja vu from the teams’ first meeting at Finn Park when a late Ruairi Keating goal bagged Harps a draw on a night when Keith Cowan was sent off. On Friday, night Bonnar was sent off for collecting a second yellow card, subsequently having Harps’ sixth red card in nine games flashed before him.
Referee Robbie Hennessy was forced to add additional five minutes following a head injury received by the Finn Harps right back, Damien McNulty three minutes from the end of normal time, forcing his withdrawal, with the player later removed to hospital with a head wound and suspected concussion.
After sixty-seven minutes, Harps were reduced to ten players when Bonnar was yellow carded followed by a red for a high challenge. Trailing 2-1 at this stage, Harps were left with a huge task to take anything from this game, but the manner in which they drove forward incessantly in the closing stages in search of an equaliser gave them a deserved point in the end.
But on the other side it has been a difficult six days for Wexford Youths. On the previous Sunday they defeated Shamrock Rovers ‘B’, while the following tuesday night they were brought to penalties before dismissing Galway Utd on penbalties in the EA Sports Cup semi-final.
With a third game in six days it was not surprising that tired legs prevailed in the closing stages as they desperately clung to a single goal lead. The fact that they failed to clear a ball on the edge of the area can be attributed to tiredness for up to then they had been in total control in front of goal.
In-form Wexford never lost their composure through early first half pressure with Kevin McHugh – who was making his 400th League of Ireland appearance – having a fifth minute shot just over the top. It was Harps who were applying the early pressure but the Youths still retained their composure as they played some quality football out of defence relieving many dangerous situations.
Wexford took the lead when Danny Furlong put a delightful ball through the defence leaving Eric Molloy to outwit the defence, rounding advancing keeper Shaun Patton before slotting home from an acute angle.
Despite this setback Finn Harps pressed in search of an equaliser with McHugh forcing a save out of Graham Doyle, getting his head to a ball that was played back into the area from a Johnny Bonnar corner kick. The attack showed that Harps had a threat up front in McHugh but with a lack of support he was unable to find away through home defence where Stephen Last was outstanding in the centre back role.
It was the homeside, believing in neat possession ball, resulting in Furlong testing Patton with a fine shot, while Ben Ryan also forced Patton into a further save. Just on the interval a last gasp Stephen Last tackle denied Pat McCann as he was about to shoot from ten meters, leaving it 1-0 at the interval.
Ten minutes into the second half Ben Ryan met an Aidan Keenan cross at the far post to finish beyond keeper Patton making it 2-0.
Harps pulled one back when McHugh drilled a rising shot into the roof of the net.
Two minutes deep into additional time, the Youth were coming under intense pressure, and when they failed to deal with a ball on the edge of the area, Mailey popped up to rifle the loose ball to the net; a goal that surely shortened the trip back to Ballybofey.
Wexford Youths: Graham Doyle, Craig Shortt, Killian Cantwell, Stephen Last, Jimmy Dermody; Shane Dunne, Eric Molloy, Ben Ryan, Aidan Keenan, Danny Furlong, Sean Skelly. Sub: Richie Fox for Skelly (88 mins).
Finn Harps: Shaun Patton; Damien McNulty, Packie Mailey, Keith Cowan, Ciaran Coll; Tommy Bonnar, Michael Funston, Pat McCann, Ruairi Keating; Kevin McHugh, Johnny Bonner.
Subs: Paul McVeigh for J.Bonner (64 mins), Graham Fisher for McNulty (87 mins)
Referee: Robbie Hennessey.