Having lost to the top two previously, Harps got back to winning ways again last Saturday night beating Mervue United by the odd goal in five at Finn Park.
“It’s good entertainment for the neutrals when there’s plenty of goals but it’s not good for the nerves”, was how Harps boss Peter Hutton summed up the game.
Harps had raced into a 2-0 lead, but let Mervue back into the game and the equalised early in the second half before Paul McVeigh got a deserved winner in the last quarter of the game.
“I thought we were very comfortable in the first half, we were really in the ascendancy and created a lot of chances. Once we went two up I thought we just had to be professional and see it out to half-time”, said Hutton.
“But, unfortunately again, sloppy defending has let us down. It wasn’t just in the back four, the midfield sat off them as well. I thought we let them get turned and dictate play.
“The penalty decision that made it two each was a bit harsh to say the least. Keith didn’t even see your man, he was swinging to clear the ball and the guy just put his head down to head the ball. The ref deemed it a rash tackle which I thought was very harsh. It seems to be the way it’s going against us at the moment, conceding penalties and things like that and it’s punishing us.”
However, Hutton was delighted with how his side has responded to losing the two goal lead.
“The boys showed a lot of character to bounce back from that then. They changed their formation a bit and their number eight was picking up a lot of the ball. They were pressing us higher up the field and that was putting us under pressure. So we had to deal with that and we changed ourselves a wee bit tactically to get ourselves back into the game. I thought we were good value then for the win.”
Harps travel to Athlone on Friday and will be hoping to give debuts to both Michael Funston and Mark Scoltock should clearance come though for both players. Thomas McBride is suspended, having been issued with a seven game ban for his second off in Limerick a fortnight ago.
“Thomas is an exceptional player but for his misdemeanours, not just in the Limerick game, but the previous Limerick game where he also got a straight red card, he has to accept the consequences. It’s a severe punishment but it’s not an alien thing, other players throughout the league have had to deal with similar punishment.”
Harps have lost both their previous encounters to Athlone this season (2-0 in Athlone and 2-1 at Finn Park), but Hutton has challenged his players to build on last week’s result over Mervue. “We’ve challenged the boys to go on a bit of a run. But to go on a run you need to pick up that first win so hopefully now the boys can maintain those good habits. We have to be professional and prepare as best we can now for the Athlone game,” he said.
Suspended: Thomas McBride (2nd of 7 games)
Injured: Stephen O’Donnell (cruciate), Hugh Carlin (cruciate), Blain Curtis (cruciate).
Form Guide (last six league games)
Finn Harps: L-L-W-L-L-W (6 pts)
Athlone Town: W-L-W-L-W-D (10 pts)
Last six away games against Athlone Town
18/04/2009 – Athlone Town 2-2 Finn Harps (First Division)
09/10/2009 – Athlone Town 0-6 Finn Harps (First Division)
10/07/2010 – Athlone Town 0-1 Finn Harps (First Division)
19/04/2011 – Athlone Town 1-0 Finn Harps (First Division)
20/08/2011 – Athlone Town 0-1 Finn Harps (First Division)
16/03/2012 – Athlone Town 2-0 Finn Harps (First Division)
Finn Harps Goalscorers 2012
Kevin McHugh – 6 (1 in League Cup)
Adam Clarke – 4
Thomas McBride – 3
Paul McVeigh – 2
Blain Curtis – 2
Ciaran Coll – 2
Paul Simon Tracey – 2
Thomas McMonagle – 1
Thomas Bonner – 1
Matt Harkin – 1
Finn Harps Results 2012 (Harps goalscorers in brackets)
07/07/2012 – (FD) Finn Harps 3-2 Mervue United (McHugh, McVeigh 2)
29/06/2012 – (FD) Limerick 3-0 Finn Harps
22/06/2012 – (FD) Finn Harps 1-3 Longford Town (Harkin)
30/05/2012 – (FD) Salthill Devon 1-5 Finn Harps (Bonner, McBride 2, Coll 2)
23/05/2012 – (FC) Derry City 4-0 Finn Harps
18/05/2012 – (FD) Finn Harps 0-1 Waterford United
11/05/2012 – (FD) Wexford Youths 3-0 Finn Harps
05/05/2012 – (FD) Finn Harps 1-2 Athlone Town (McHugh)
27/04/2012 – (FD) Mervue United 3-0 Finn Harps
21/04/2012 – (FD) Finn Harps 1-3 Limerick (Clarke)
14/04/2012 – (FD) Longford Town 1-3 Finn Harps (Tracey, McBride, Curtis)
09/04/2012 – (LC) Derry City 4-0 Finn Harps
06/04/2012 – (FD) Finn Harps 3-0 Salthill Devon (Clarke, McHugh, Curtis)
31/03/2012 – (FD) Waterford United 0-2 Finn Harps (Tracey, Waterford o.g.)
26/03/2012 – (LC) Finn Harps 2-0 Mayo League (Mayo o.g., McHugh)
24/03/2012 – (FD) Finn Harps 0-1 Wexford Youths
16/03/2012 – (FD) Athlone Town 2-0 Finn Harps
10/03/2012 – (FD) Finn Harps 4-3 Mervue United (Clarke, McHugh 2, McMonagle)
02/03/2012 – (FD) Limerick 2-1 Finn Harps (Clarke)
FD = First Division; LC = League Cup; FC = FAI Cup