Finn Harps 0 Shamrock Rovers B 1
By Chris McNulty at Finn Park
THE silence at the end told the feeling of another night of home frustration for Finn Harps.
Ben Connolly’s last, long blow of the whistle was met by an eerie response at Finn Park as home supporters departed pondering a night that finally scored a line through Harps’ hopes of making a late dart into the promotion play-off positions.
Chris Lyons’s 30th minute penalty was all that stood between the teams, but it was a night that again exposed Harps’ failings in the final third. It was a game, too, that outlined their troubles on home soil, one of the main reasons they haven’t managed a sustained challenge for promotion. Rovers played the final half an hour with ten men, following Conor Dunne’s dismissal for a foul on Keith Cowan but, even then, Harps couldn’t find a breakthrough.
In twelve League games at Finn Park, Harps have won just twice. Friday’s was their second home loss against Shamrock Rovers B and it was the sixth time they have failed to score at Finn Park.
The goal arrived after Connolly awarded a penalty when Lyons was nudged over just inside the box by Harps midfielder Josh Mailey. Lyons assumed responsibility himself and it penalty was neatly delivered to the bottom corner, sending goalkeeper Conor Winn the wrong way in the process.
There was a recall for Jordan Loftus, who came in for Sean McCarron to partner Kevin McHugh in attack. Three minutes after going behind McHugh was forced off with a back injury that has now put his availability for the forthcoming FAI Cup quarter-final, while McCarron – the captain’s replacement – picked up a yellow card that rules him out of that game.
McHugh had a couple of gilt-edged chances early on that he ought to have done better.
His touch let him down in the opening minute when Brian McGroary’s cross from the right-hand side managed to squirm its way to the perfectly-placed striker at the far post. McHugh’s scuffed effort was into the side netting and a glorious chance gone.
Mailey struck the crossbar with a ferocious dipping effort before McHugh’s superb touch following Pat McCann’s probing header gave him another opportunity, but this time his shot crept agonisingly past the post.
Shamrock Rovers B – who stole a win at Finn Park via a late Stephen Confrey goal in May – have improved considerably of late as their last game, a 6-0 hammering of Cobh, showed. The Dubliners came close when Winn could only dramatically parry a teasing free by Cian Kavanagh and Adam Whelan’s follow-up was blocked by Ciaran Coll.
Rovers inched in front with Lyons’ penalty right on the half-hour mark and the Hoops looked comfortable as the first half petered out. The best Harps could muster was a hopeful Keith Cowan effort, following a powerful burst through the middle, that was over the top.
Ollie Horgan brought on midfielder Ger O’Callaghan for his first Finn Park appearance at half-time. A tidy player on the ball, he perhaps wasn’t direct enough at a stage when Harps needed to put the pressure on their visitors.
McCarron headed wide and Loftus was denied by O’Malley, but Harps couldn’t quite make a significant threat. The possibilities opened when Dunne walked the line once too often, lunging into Cowan and receiving a straight red for his troubles after an hour.
Twelve minutes from time, Harps did managed to carve Rovers open when Loftus threaded in a superb through ball to McCarron, but his first-time effort was wide. Winn had made an earlier save from Kavanagh and the big goalkeeper joined a late raid by the Harps attack, which saw Loftus just fail to connect with a McCann shot with O’Callaghan drawing a save from O’Malley.
With Winn sprinting back, Rovers almost caught him on the counter attack, but Mark Sanford’s hopeful attempt flew just over.
Finn Harps: Conor Winn; Damien McNulty, Keith Cowan, Thomas McMonagle, Ciaran Coll; Brian McGroary, Josh Mailey, Pat McCann, Gareth Harkin; Jordan Loftus, Kevin McHugh.
Subs: Sean McCaron for McHugh (33 mins), Ger O’Callaghan for Mailey (half-time), Michael Funston for Coll (75 mins).
Shamrock Rovers B: Conor O’Malley; Maxime Veuille, Michael Kelly, Sean Heaney, Alan Keogh; Adam Whelan, Conor Dunne, Ryan Doolin, Daniel Purdy; Cian Kavanagh; Chris Lyons.
Subs: Jack Watson for Kavanagh (56 mins), Azeez Yusef for Lyons (77 mins), Mark Sanford for Whelan (82 mins).
Referee: Ben Connolly (Dublin).