Wexford were the last side to score against Harps from open play (it was actually and own goal from Ciaran Coll) – that coming in the 2-2 in Wexford at the end of May.
Since then, Harps have conceded just twice in seven games – those goals coming from a Glen O’Connor free-kick for Longford Town and Gareth Coughlan’s penalty for Shelbourne last weekend.
Last Friday’s 1-1 draw at Tolka Park brought Harps’ unbeaten run to five games, and they now have tasted defeat just once in ten outings. Indeed, it could have been so much more against Shels only for a Carol Tiofack goal to be ruled out by substitute referee Paula Brady.
“A draw was probably a fair result but we had a perfectly good winning goal disallowed with 10 minutes left for an infringement that I still can’t find on the video,” said Harps boss Ollie Horgan as he reflected on the game.
“That last 15 minutes of the game was end-to-end with both sides trying to win it, some of our defending was last ditch stuff but brave and disciplined.
“Defensively we have been strong although we coughed up too many chances to Shelbourne,” continued Horgan. “They doubled up in wide areas and had pace and ability about them. I was disappointed with the concession of the penalty but our goal from Sean McCarron was of some ability also.”
Despite the good away point, Horgan was well aware that his side had still lost ground on those above them, including Friday’s visitors to Finn Park.
“It was a good result in Dublin on Friday but despite this we still lost ground with Galway and Wexford both winning,” he said.
Friday’s game will be the first of at least two meetings between the sides this month after the clubs were paired together in last week’s FAI Cup third round draw. That game takes place towards the end of the month and Horgan said it was far from an ideal draw from his sides point of view.
“The Cup draw was probably one of the least appealing ties we could have got,” said Horgan. “The journey, the financial side of it and the quality that Wexford offer makes it a difficult task in many ways, but we will get on with it as we have done all season.”
Friday’s game gives Horgan and Harps a chance to bridge the gap between the two sides. Wexford sit immediately above Harps on the table in fourth spot with a five point advantage. Both sides remain on the fringes of a play-off spot and nothing less than a victory will do for Harps on Friday. However, Horgan has urged caution against a team that he feels come to Finn Park in fine form.
“We will be seeing a lot of Shane Keegan and his Wexford team in the next few months. They are pushing for promotion and deservedly so.
“This Wexford side is the best Wexford side I have seen. They have added more quality to the side recently with Andy Mulligan signing from Bohemians added to the attacking qualities of Danny Furlong and Aiden Keenan.
“They are very well organised with the likes of Eric Molloy and Shane Dunne driving them from the middle of the field,” he said.
The previous two meetings between the sides this season have finished in draws – 1-1 at Finn Park last April and 2-2 at Ferrycarrig Park the following month.
Michael Funston, Keith Cowan and Caoimhin Bonner all return from suspension to give Horgan a full panel to choose from for quite some time.