Finn Harps are on course for their first League win of 2017 as they lead St Patrick’s Athletic at half-time in Dublin.
St Patrick’s Athletic 1 Finn Harps 2
By Chris McNulty at Richmond Park
Harps came from behind and have a slender lead at the break.
After Sean Houston cancelled out an early opener by Graham Kelly, Harps hit the front a minute before half-time as Ciaran O’Connor stroked home his third goal of the season.
Caolan McAleer took possession from Michael Barker and centred for O’Connor to score.
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 Caolan McAleer’s cross, a weak header out by Michael 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.
Harps have 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.
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.
Ollie Horgan has made four changes as Bonner, Morrissey, Gareth Harkin and Damien McNulty have come in. Injury prevents Paddy McCourt and Barry Molloy from starting, while Packie Mailey and Eddie Dsane also make way.