Wexford Youths 3 Finn Harps 0
LATE goals by Danny Furlong and Aidan Keenan compounded a night of absolute misery for Finn Harps as they crashed to a fourth defeat on the bounce at the hands of Wexford Youths in Ferrycarrig on Friday night.
A night of frustration saw the Ballybofey outfit finish the game with nine men following the sending-offs for Kevin McHugh and Adam Clarke respectively.
The Harps skipper was shown a straight red card after just four minutes for an incident involving Wexford defender CJ Browne, while Clarke was dismissed in the sixty-seventh minute – three minutes after Tom Elmes gave Wexford the lead – for overly enthusiastic afters with one of the Wexford players.
Furlong and Keenan then hit late strikes to give the score-line a somewhat flattering feel to it and inflict even more damage to a Harps defence that has been leaking goals for fun of late.
The result follows successive defeats to Limerick, Mervue United and Athlone Town and with subsequent suspensions to be served by McHugh and Clarke over the next few weeks, things aren’t going to get any easier.
There were five changes to the starting line-up that lost to Athlone in Ballybofey last week, with Rory Kelly, Aaron O’Hagan, Ciaran Greene, Gary Merritt and Hugh Carlin, who was nursing a knee injury, all omitted.
Ciaran Gallagher returned for his first start in six weeks after making a full recovery from the hairline fractures sustained against Waterford United at the RSC.
Thomas McBride came back into the mix following a two-game suspension while Matt Harkin, Paul Simon Tracey and Clarke all started from the off in the southeast.
Full-back Ciaran Coll also shook off pain in his knee to retain his place in the team following a build-up of fluid over the last few weeks for the St. Johnston man.
Harps’ night got off to the worst possible start when, after just four minutes, their skipper was sent for an early shower after a coming together with Browne. The Wexford defender made a block on McHugh, who attempted to free the ball from under the Youths player, only to connect fully with his ribs.
The referee’s assistant then flagged referee James McKell and the striker was soon making his way back to the dressing room with the game still in its infancy.
When Adam Clarke made a determined run into the Wexford penalty area it was a fine, crunching tackle by Jamie Carr that snuffed out the threat. In the other goal Ciaran Gallagher looked suspect but sandwiched a sharp save to push Furlong’s effort over the bar between a couple of tentative punches before going full length to his left to deal with another Furlong strike and repeating the process to keep out an even better low drive from Shane Nolan.
After the interval Youths stepped up the pressure and should have scored on several occasions. Harps almost did just three minutes after the break when a long range screamer from McMonagle flicked off Harkin’s head scraped the junction of post and bar. Whether it would have gone in but for Harkins intervention is one of those imponderables that makes football interesting.
But soon Youths were back on the trail. When Gallagher dropped a cross invitingly in front of goal Tommy McBride scrambled the ball behind. Then the flight of a Shane Nolan corner from the right defeated the keeper and he was indebted to McGowan who headed behind.
Home midfielder Patsy Malone put two close range headers over the bar but when his erstwhile midfield partner Shane Dempsey arrived as a sixty-third minute substitute they soon combined to send full back Phelan away down the right and his cross drew a header from Tom Elmes that spiralled into the top right corner of Gallagher’s net.
This must have been a comfort to the big Wexford striker who subsequently took the ball round the keeper but somehow managed to pass to an opponent when confronted with an empty goal. Adam Clarke had received his marching orders by then, Mr McKell’s well rehearsed hand to pocket action again being triggered by an assistant as the Harps player was perhaps a little too enthusiastic about disentangling himself from an opponent off the ball in the sixty-seventh minute.
Harps reorganised their forces for a second time and their management team generally showed commendable restraint but both Felix Healy and his partner Hutton were instantly incandescent when two Wexford attackers were allowed to proceed when both were clearly offside. It took two stubbornly defended corners before the danger from this illegal intrusion could be relieved and led to the best comic moment of the evening when the normally mild mannered Mr Healy protested to the nearby lino, “You effing swore at me!”
Officials are supposed to be above such badinage with the dugout and this one duly made use of the advantageous progress of the ball to sprint away up the line.
But the best Harps could do in response was to remind the home side that the points were not yet safe with a fine long range effort from McBride sending Doyle plunging to his left to parry the ball away.
Harps were three at the back by now and tiring legs made them susceptible to infiltration. Danny Furlong, who had an impressive evening, finally made the points secure with only three minutes of the ninety remaining, running in from the right to slot the ball between Gallagher’s legs.
Two minutes later Aidan Keenan waltzed through on the left to score a third goal. Game, set and match and Wexford are back up to third position. But the really impressive stats belong to referee McKell. On his last two visits to Ferrycarrig he has dispensed no fewer than four red and fourteen yellow cards. That surely puts him top of that particular league.
Wexford Youths: Graham Doyle; Christopher Browne, Jamie Carr, James Darmody, Mark Phelan; Aidan Keenan, Paul Malone, Shaun Nolan, Craig Wall; Tom Elmes, Danny Furlong. Subs: James Scallion (Browne, 46 mins), Shane Dempsey (Nolan, 63 mins), Shaun Corcoran (Elmes, 89 mins).
Finn Harps: Ciaran Gallagher; Thomas Bonnar, Shaun McGowan, Thomas McMonagle, Ciaran Coll; Adam Clarke, Thomas McBride, Shane McGinty, Paul Simon Tracey; Matt Harkin, Kevin McHugh. Subs: Blain Curtis (Harkin, 63 mins), Ciaran Greene (Tracey, 72 mins), Gary Merritt (McGinty, 74 mins).
Referee: James McKell.