ON A NIGHT when their place in the play-off was mathematically confirmed, Finn Harps bagged a first win in eight games thanks to Joshua Smith’s early header.
Finn Harps 1 Waterford FC 0
By Chris McNulty at Finn Park. Pictures by Joe Boland, North West News Pix
UCD’s 3-0 home loss to Shamrock Rovers meant that the Students were officially relegated before matters had concluded in Ballybofey.
Smith’s header on six minutes was enough to give Harps a timely return to winning ways with goalkeeper Mark Anthony McGinley on form when Waterford went in search of an equaliser in the closing stages.
Given a vastly superior goal difference to supplement a six-point buffer before tonight, Horgan’s eyes were already on the play-off. The Harps boss dispatched coach William O’Connor to Stradbrook, where Cabinteely and Drogheda United were crossing swords in the opening leg of their First Division play-off, a game that finished 1-1.
Harps hit the front just six minutes in as Joshua Smith rose to flick a header past Matt Connor from Mark Russell’s free kick.
Smith climbed highest and the American-born centre-back – a summer signing from SC Hessen Dreieich in Germany – was off in celebration of his first Harps goal.
Harps began well in front of a small home crowd and Connor denied Nathan Boyle in the opening minute. Boyle was as surprised as anyone when referee Damien McGrath over-ruled an offside flag from an assistant and Connor made the stop.
Ruairi Harkin’s shot was too high after Boyle did well to invite the pop, but Smith was on cue for what was Harps’ first goal in some 278 minutes.
Waterford included former Harps striker Michael O’Connor in their attack and Alan Reynolds’ side arrived in the north-west on the back of a useful run that yielded three wins from their last four.
Tom Holland came into the Blues’ starting line-up, replacing Rob Slevin in the only change from their recent 2-0 win over Sligo Rovers.
O’Connor saw a low shot deflect wide in the 20th minute, after he and the stretching Walter Figueira just failed to connect properly to Kevin Lynch’s powerful cross. Figueira did get a deft touch, but not enough to direct it goal-ward.
In stoppage time at the end of the first half, Jacob Borg powered into the Waterford penalty area, but fired into the side-netting.
Tony McNamee and Mikey Place walked suspension tightropes and Horgan opted to leave both players out of his squad. Bookings for either tonight would’ve have resulting in them missing the first leg of the promotion-relegation play-off.
Shane Duggan riffled over the top from a good position early in the second half and Connor brilliantly held onto Nathan Boyle’s header on the goal-line as the Harps front man connected to Raffaele Cretaro’s clever ball in.
Figueira delivered a reminder in the teeming rain that Waterford weren’t going to go quietly. Figueira did well to carve out a chance just inside the Harps area, but he couldn’t keep it down. It was still, though, a warning that Harps would need to pull the shutters down.
Just two minutes later, McGinley got down superbly to parry away a tester from sub Dean Walsh, who narrowly headed over from close range moments later.
With two minutes remaining, O’Connor shot at McGinley after Lynch created the chance.
Finn Harps: Mark Anthony McGinley; Harry Ascroft, Joshua Smith, Sam Todd; Jacob Borg, Ruairi Harkin, Gareth Harkin, Mark Timlin, Mark Russell; Raffaele Cretaro; Nathan Boyle. Subs: Stephen Doherty for Timlin (56), Daniel O’Reilly for R.Harkin (77), Niall Logue for Cretaro (81).
Waterford: Matt Connor; Sam Bone, Rory Feely, Maxim Kouogun, Kevin Lynch; Shane Duggan, JJ Lunney, Tom Holland, Georgie Poynton; Michael O’Connor, Walter Figueira. Subs: Zach Elbouzedi for Bone (59), Rob Slevin for Feely (72), Dean Walsh for Holland (72).
Referee: Damien McGraith.Tags: