Striker Adam Foley put Harps ahead in the first half.. Picture: Stephen Doherty
Finn Harps 1
Never-say-die Finn Harps pulled off the great escape in their final game of a hugely disruptive season as they secured the win they needed against Waterford while at the same time Shelbourne lost out at home to champions Shamrock Rovers.
This meant that Harps leapfrogged over Shels and into eighth spot to secure their Premier Division status for next year. Shels now face a promotion/relegation play-off with First Division Longford Town on Saturday to determine their fate.
Ollie Horgan’s gamble of deploying the Twin Towers of Adam Foley and Alexander Kogler in attack certainly paid dividends as the two towering strikers caused the Waterford defence constant problems in the first half.
And even when Kogler went off in the second half, 39-year-old veteran substitute Raffaele Cretaro showed his vast experience as a steadying force.
In an open and entertaining first half, Harps had the better of the opening stages with Adam Foley bursting into the Waterford box from the left flank on 11 minutes, but his shot was saved by Brian Murphy.
The home side had a scare shortly afterwards when a wayward header off Kosovar Sadiki let Matty Smith in on goal but the advancing Mark Anthony McGinley did well to come out and block the shot at the expense of a corner.
Harps went ahead on 27 minutes when Barry McNamee did the spadework inside the box, driving the ball towards the far post where Adam Foley came charging in to force the ball over the line from close range.
Harps then had a series of chances to increase their advantage with McNamee mis-firing from a promising position, Foley having a shot saved while the towering Alexander Kogler headed just over from a corner and was nearly in after McCourt almost lost possession.
Waterford’s best attack of the half saw John Martin surging towards goal and letting fly with a thundering drive that hit the side netting.
The second half was equally lively, with so much at stake. McNamee snaked his way deep into Waterford territory only to be denied by a fine save from Brian Murphy.
Almost immediately, play swung to the other end in a move instigated by Smith with Niall O’Keeffe firing narrowly wide.
With an hour gone, word filtered through that Cork had taken the lead against Derry while Shelbourne were trailing Shamrock Rovers by 2-0.
The pendulum was swinging in Harps’ favour.
But Waterford were still sniffing to get into Europe.
The ubiquitous Smith then had a shot stopped by McGinley on 62 minutes and in the follow up ended up on the deck, but pleas for a penalty were promptly dismissed.
But Harps continued to have the edge, and after Foley had another effort on target, Dave Webster saw his header smacking off the crossbar.
Chances continued at both ends in a nervy finish, and Harps even had a goal disallowed.
Harps held on for a memorable victory - despite substitute Kurtis Byrne missing a last gasp chance from close range which appeared to shave the outside of the post after Dave Webster appeared to have got a vital touch.
Finn Harps: McGInley; McEleney (Coyle, 72 mins), Sadiki, Folan; Webster, G. Harkin, Connolly, B. McNamee, Russell; Kogler (Cretaro, 55 mins) Foley (Todd, 79 mins)..
Waterford: B. Murphy; Power (Griffin, 58 mins), Davidson, Weir, Wilson (Walsh, 90 mins); Smith, McCourt, O’Keeffe Fitzgerald, 66 mins), Coote (Byrne, 90 mins); D.Murphy, Martin (Longbottom, 90 mins)
Referee: P. McLaughlin (Donegal).
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