IT IS A point that could prove priceless in so many ways as Finn Harps maintained a six-point advantage on UCD in the battle for Premier Division survival.
Finn Harps 0 UCD 0
By Chris McNulty at Finn Park. Pictures by Joe Boland, North West News Pix
With three games to go, UCD look doomed for relegation with Harps – barring a mammoth upset – now set for a promotion-relegation play-off in the coming weeks.
Harps were denied a penalty early in the second half half when veteran attacker Raffaele Cretaro went down under pressure from UCD defender Evan Farrell.
While Cretaro did get a shot away, firing wide, Harps felt the Tubbercurry man was being impeded and the shake of the head from John McLoughlin, the referee, drew an angry response from the home support, which numbered 1,120.
Indeed, Harps boss Ollie Horgan – who watched from the upper deck of the media gantry as he served a touchline suspension – cut a particularly irate figure at the decision.
Young sub Stephen Doherty and Mark Russell called Conor Kearns, the UCD goalkeeper, into action, but Kearns repelled their efforts.
Without the suspended Daniel O’Reilly and Nathan Boyle, the Harps manager Ollie Horgan showed three changes with Gareth Harkin dropping to the bench.
Horgan elevated Mark Coyle, Tony McNamee and Harry Ascroft from the side that lost 3-1 at Sligo two weeks ago.
Coyle went close to turning Harps in front when Mark Timlin clipped him in around the back, but Coyle’s low shot was narrowly wide of the far post.
Moments later, Harps had a scare at the other end as ‘keeper Mark Anthony McGinley eventually smothered after a combination of Keith Cowan and Ascroft thwarted the march of Yousef Mahdy, who worked a chance after being fed by Dara Keane’s burst through.
Harps had plenty of early possession, but a succession of set plays, including a handful of long throw-ins for McNamee, came and went without Kearns being overly troubled.
McNamee later riffled over the top from distance while Ruairi Harkin’s free deflected off the wall and off to safety.
Timlin might have done better when Cretaro sent him in, but Timlin’s shot was palmed away by Kearns.
Cretaro tested the palms of Kearns and, as Harps continued to probe for an opening, Coyle’s touch let him down at the vital moment, just when it seemed as if the Inishowen man was on the cusp of breaking the deadlock.
UCD arrived in Ballybofey with no wins from their last eight league outings. Since a 3-0 win over Bohemians in mid-July, the Students suffered a series of damaging defeats.
Defeats like a 10-1 battering by Bohs and a 7-0 reversal at the hands of Shamrock Rovers saw Collie O’Neill lose his job with Maciej Tarnogrodzki taking over at Belfield.
UCD weren’t in Ballybofey for a day trip, though, and they began to warm to the task early in the second half as Jason McClelland shot narrowly wide and Donegal Town’s Jack Keaney headed at McGinley.
A former UCD goalkeeper, McGinley denied Mahdy with a superb save just before the hour. The Ards man brilliantly pushed away Mahdy’s testing drive from the right-hand side of the penalty box.
Finn Harps: Mark Anthony McGinley; Harry Ascroft, Keith Cowan, Sam Todd; Jacob Borg, Ruairi Harkin (Stephen Doherty 64), Tony McNamee, Mark Timlin (Gareth Harkin 64), Mark Russell; Mark Coyle (Mikey Place 86), Raffaele Cretaro.
UCD: Conor Kearns; Evan Farrell, Harry McEvoy, Luke Boore, Mark Dignam; Liam Kerrigan (Richie O’Farrell 80), Jack Keane, Paul Doyle, Jason McClelland (Dany Kinsella-Bishop 89); Dara Keane, Yousef Mahdy.
Referee: John McLoughlinTags: