Finn Harps held on for dear life to, deservedly, earn their first win of the season at St Patrick’s Athletic tonight.
St Patrick’s Athletic 1 Finn Harps 2
By Chris McNulty at Richmond Park
Goals from Sean Houston and Ciaran O’Connor secured the come-from-behind win in front of 895 spectators at Richmond Park.
Battling Harps had to endure almost six minutes of added time at the end of the game and they were frenetic and chaotic at times with Pats’ Kurtis Byrne seeing a free-kick saved by Harps goalkeeper Ciaran Gallagher.
The second half was one of few chances, but Pat’s laid siege on the Harps box in the closing stages – but resilient and spirited Harps, who saw the guile of Paddy McCourt and experience of Michael Funston introduced late on.
O’Connor’s third goal of the season fired Harps to a rare away win.
Caolan McAleer intercepted a poor back pass from Pat’s full-back Michael Barker. McAleer squared for O’Connor, who calmly passed the ball to the net.
Harps have had a wretched sequence of results against the Saints in recent times and you have to go all the way back 16 years for their last victory.
That was a 4-1 win in Inchicore on a 2001 night when Jonathan Speak, then Harps player-manager, scored twice.
Speak was poacher supreme and in O’Connor Harps have a new goal ace.
It was a just-about deserved lead for Harps, who started on rocky ground after conceding early, but they slowly-and-surely got into the game, spurred by Sean Houston’s equaliser.
Before that, their supporters watched from between the gaps in their fingers as Pat’s – also searching for a first win of the campaign – roared to life from the off.
Harps fell behind after only three minutes. Jonny Bonner was caught out by Graham Kelly, who nipped in to punish his lapse as he fired past Ciaran Gallagher.
It was all Pat’s at the outset and Harps were rather fortunate not to have been further behind by the time Houston drew Harps level, against the run of play, on 19 minutes.
After Pat’s failed to deal with McAleer’s cross, a weak header out by Barker fell the way of Houston on the edge of the area and the midfielder delightfully fired beyond Barry Murphy.
Almost immediately, Pat’s were inches from regaining the lead. Gavin Peers beat Gallagher with a superb head, but the crossbar came to the rescue.
Kelly’s follow-up was over the top and Harps survived.
Moments earlier, just before Houston’s leveller, Gallagher somehow saved from Billy Dennehy, who ghosted in to connect with a Josh O’Hanlon centre, although the offside flag of Robert Clarke had signalled Dennehy offside.
After letting their hearts settle from that Peers-Kelly double chance, Harps settled to the task and Houston, after winning possession and working a chance with Danny Morrissey, saw a second 20-yarder charged down.
Horgan made four changes from the side that drew 1-1 with Galway as Bonner, Morrissey, Gareth Harkin and Damien McNulty have come in.
Injury prevented Paddy McCourt and Barry Molloy from starting, while Packie Mailey and Eddie Dsane also dropped out.
Pat’s tried to put Harps on the back foot early in the second half, but Ian Bermingham fired over from distance and couldn’t really trouble Gallagher.
Sub Christy Fagan thought for a moment that he had headed in an equaliser, but saw his efforr whizz just wide with Gallagher at full stretch.
In the 86th minute, Peers flicked wide from Conan Byrne’s cross and the nerves were beginning to whistle through Harps’ boots.
St Patrick’s Athletic: Barry Murphy; Michael Barker, Gavin Peers, Lee Desmond, Ian Bermingham; Conan Byrne, Patrick Cregg, Graham Kelly, Billy Dennehy; JJ Lunney; Josh O’Hanlon. Subs: Kurtis Byrne for Kelly (61), Christy Fagan for O’Hanlon (67), Alex O’Hanlon for Dennehy (80).
Finn Harps: Ciaran Gallagher; Damien McNulty, Kilian Cantwell, Ciaran Coll, Gareth Harkin; Ethan Boyle; Caolan McAleer, Jonny Bonner, Sean Houston, Danny Morrissey; Ciaran O’Connor.
Subs: Paddy McCourt for Bonner (76), Michael Funston for Morrissey (83), Packie Mailey for McAleer (90).
Referee: Ben Connolly (Dublin).