BY CHRIS MCNULTY OLLIE Horgan kept his Finn Harps players in the dressing room for almost half-an-hour after Friday's one-nil defeat by Shamrock Rovers B. The Harps manager has seen his side win just two League games at home this season. Friday's, though, was their first defeat in ten games in all competitions. It was a night when Chris Lyons' penalty on the half-hour proved the difference, the striker coolly tucking into the bottom corner after he'd been upended by Josh Mailey. Harps had started well with Mailey hitting the crossbar in between a pair of superb chances for captain Kevin McHugh, who was forced off injured on 33 minutes. Horgan demands honest endeavour from his players and he left no ambiguity in his post-match assessment of what he'd witnessed, his team failing to break down a side that played the final thirty minutes with ten men following Conor Dunne's sending off. "It didn't happen for us, but we didn't make it happen," Horgan said. "I try not to give too much praise when we win and I try not to be too negative when we lose, but tonight just wasn't good enough. "We could have been one-nil up in the first minute and it could have been a different outcome but, no, we were nowhere near what we're looking for. It was an eye opener for me and for my staff as regards where we thought we were. We knew we had a lot of work to do, but we thought we were improving as we went along. That wasn't the case tonight. "People didn't prepare for that game as well as the staff did. I watched Shamrock Rovers in their last game and I knew they had improved. I knew they had energy and freshness about them, but I don't think the message got through. Yes, we have limitations and they haven't gone away in the final third when it comes to scoring goals. We scored two goals in our last two games, but some of those were set pieces. "I can't quite put my finger on it, but possibly people had their eyes on the Cup quarter-final. We are no more ready for a Cup quarter-final than we were at the start of the season. It's disappointing and while it might look critical, I'm just being honest." Harps went into the game still with an outside chance of sneaking into the promotion play-off positions but as things now stand - nine points behind Galway with only five games to play - those hopes have evaporated. Horgan said: "We had to win that game. If ever there was a must win game, that was it. Whatever chance we had of clinging onto a play-off place is now well and truly gone. "We were poor in the first half, but we improved in the second. We huffed and we puffed, but we over played the ball a lot, especially in the last ten minutes. We didn't hurt them enough. The most we could have got out of it was a draw and a draw wouldn't have been any good for us." Harps take on Avondale United in an FAI Cup quarter-final in a fortnight's time, but the manager issued a stern warning to his players ahead of a game that offers a chance of making the semi-final for the first time since those head-spinning days of 1999. Horgan said: "We felt we could close the gap to Wexford and Galway, especially with the run we were on. I thought we had turned the corner with the win in Wexford. They played beneath themselves tonight and it's hard to put the finger on why. There was probably a little bit of it being about the FAI Cup draw on Tuesday night and peoples' minds were elsewhere - certainly not where our's were. "We will prepare for every game as well as we have done all season. To be fair, the players are well warned that if they want to pick and choose what games they want to play in they won't play in too many. "I felt that we had improved and that we're a better side now than we were in the first quarter of the year. I have to take stock again. Maybe that's a blessing in disguise. Maybe some of them have eyes set on playing in the Cup. If we play like that against Avondale or St Michael's, we'll be well beaten. "Maybe this happening tonight could be a help to us in the Cup." Conor Winn, the goalkeeper, joined the attack late on as Harps went in a desperate search of an equaliser, but they couldn't breach Conor O'Malley's rearguard. On a week when Harps secretary John Campbell appealed for the Donegal public to come out in support of Harps, his words fell on deaf ears with a confirmed attendance of 368. Harps will have had just three home games against six aways in August and September. Horgan said: "I don't think they did themselves justice, nor did they do justice to the people who came out to watch them. They let them down, especially after the standards we set for ourselves. They know that and a lot of them are shattered and hurt - which is a good sign. We'll pick it up next week."
Posted: 12:11 pm September 2, 2014