A fourth clean sheet on the bounce, but it was a frustrating night for Finn Harps, who missed a chance to put some daylight between themselves and Shelbourne.
Finn Harps 0 Shelbourne 0
By Chris McNulty at Finn Park. Photos by Joe Boland, North West Newspix
It was a night when Harps could have opened a five-point lead on Shels, but the sides drew a blank on a night were the aim appeared to be not to lose.
The teams had one clear-cut chance each: David O’Sullivan seeing Ciaran Gallagher manage to keep out a goal-bound header in the opening ten minutes and Harps’ Mikey Place closer still, only for Aidan Collins to make a goal-line block.
Those openings apart, it was a cagey affair that ended with neither side any further forward, but Harps dropping back behind Drogheda – who beat Athlone 2-1 – on points having been level going into the night’s action.
More importantly, perhaps, UCD are now seven points ahead of Ollie Horgan’s Harps, whose new-found defensive solidity – this represented Ciaran Gallagher’s fourth clean sheet in a row since the June break – could prove a vital key in the weeks to come.
Horgan made two changes from the team that defeated Longford Town seven days previously with Gareth Harkin restored to the XI and Nathan Boyle given his first start since making his return to the club.
Aidan Friel and another of the new recruits, Tunmise Sobowale, made way.
Harps thought they had taken the lead in the 33rd minute when Jesse Devers – recovered after the injury that forced him off after 13 minutes of the Longford win – set Place on his way. The ball bobbled awkwardly for Place, who managed to get a shot away.
A touch off the goalkeeper, Dean Delaney, took sufficient sting from the shot and enabled Collins to hook clear off the goal-line.
That came eight minutes after Jacob Borg looked to have netted his first Harps goal.
The Maltese international tested the water with a sweetly-struck effort from the right-hand edge of the penalty area, but Delaney managed to claw away with the tips of his fingers, just when Borg’s shot looked set to dip into the Town End net.
It was Shelbourne who made the early running, Cian Kavanagh firing a free-kick into the arms of Ciaran Gallagher with the first effort of the evening.
Harps’ blushed were spared on eight minutes when Shels – whose experience had been noted often in the build-up by Horgan – went closer than the home side would have wished.
Adam Evans planted the cross and David O’Sullivan’s header seemed to deceived Ciaran Gallagher, but the Harps ‘keeper miraculously managed to get a touch onto the post before gathering.
Reece McEnteer called Gallagher into action with a long-ranger that drew a few gasps from a sparse attendance.
Evans himself had a pop 25 minutes from time, but found only Gallagher’s midriff.
With Paddy McCourt’s lock-picking skills absent, Subowale was sent in, while John O’Flynn was thrown on for the final nine minutes, as Harps looked for another late winner.
As the clock ticked into the early seconds of added time, Devers’ whipped ball in dropped onto the top of the net and soon both sets of players were on their knees, looking as if they wondered what to make of the end result.
Finn Harps: Ciaran Gallagher; Ciaran Coll, Keith Cowan, Sam Todd; Jacob Borg, Tommy McBride, Gareth Harkin (John O’Flynn 81), Mark Timlin (Mark Coyle 66); Jesse Devers; Mikey Place, Nathan Boyle (Tunmise Sobowale 62).
Shelbourne: Dean Delaney; John Wilson, Aidan Collins, Derek Prendergast, Reece McEnteer; David O’Sullivan (James English 71), Mark Hughes, Alan Byrne, Adam Evans; Cian Kavanagh (Gavin Boyne 64), Greg Moorhouse.
Referee: Paula Brady.Tags: