Finn Harps pictured before Friday night's meeting with Waterford FC at Finn Park. PICTURE: STEPHEN DOHERTY
Stand-in defender Joshua Smith scored his first Harps goal as the Donegal side warmed up for the play-offs with a welcome win over Waterford FC on Friday night.
Finn Harps . . .1
Waterford FC . . . 0
It was Harps’ first league win since they beat Bohs way back at the beginning of August.
And it came on a night when UCD’s relegation was finally confirmed following their 3-0 home defeat by Shamrock Rovers.
Going into this game Harps had been struggling to pick up points and goals were also proving hard to come by.
But they took only six minutes to find a goal with Smith - in for the absent Keith Cowan - rising in the area to flick home Mark Timlin’s inswinging free-kick.
It was Smith’s first goal in Harps colours and the perfect start for Ollie Horgan’s side.
Waterford though saw plenty of early possession with Shane Duggan orchestrating much of their threat from midfield. Twice they went close to drawing level. Walter Figueira could only divert a dangerous Kevin Lynch delivery wide of the post on 17 minutes.
And then two minutes later, Lynch crossed again from the left and Michael O’Connor got room in the area to shoot but his effort was deflected wide.
Waterford, on such a great run of form recently, were well on top during the first quarter and Figueira in particular, was causing plenty of problems up front. He was denied a run clear on goal by a linesman’s flag, much to the frustration of the visiting dug-out and Waterford’s ploy of getting the ball up to the front two as quick as they could ensured it was a busy first half for the home defence.
But Harps defended well and when they did get on the ball, they played some decent football.
Nathan Boyle fired one just over the bar after Mark Russell teed him up on the edge of the box. Then right on half time, Jacob Berg combined with Mark Timlin, raced in on goal but as the angle began to narrow, he shot into the side-netting.
The second half struggled to spring into life although there was controversy when on 57 minutes referee Damien McGrath signalled a free out to Harps when Waterford’s Georgie Poynton went down in the box. The visitors took their protests too far and both Lynch and O’Connor were booked after several players surrounded the match official.
Harps lost Mark Timlin to injury and that’s a worry for Horgan ten days out from the play-offs.
He was replaced by Stephen Doherty who did well for the closing half hour.
Harps were close to a second on 68 when following a Ruairi Harkin free, the ball was returned across goal and Harry Ascroft almost bundled it home only for keeper Connor’s intervention - the Waterford stopper grabbing the ball before it rolled over the line.
At the other end, Waterford created a string of half chances. McGinley dived to his right to save a curling effort from substitute Dean Walsh and then right at the death, O’Connor shot straight at McGinley when he really should have hit the target.
Harps will complete their league programme next Friday night with a trip to neighbours Derry City. They play the first leg of their promotion/relegation play-off on Monday week.
The first leg of the First Division play-off between Cabinteely and Drogheda United ended 1-1 on Friday night.
Finn Harps: Mark Anthony McGinley, Jacob Berg, Mark Russell, Sam Todd, Joshua Smith, Harry Ascroft, Raff Cretaro (Niall Logue 80), Ruairi Harkin (Daniel O’Reilly 76), Nathan Boyle, Gareth Harkin, Mark Timlin (Stephen Doherty 56).
Waterford: Matt Connor, Sam Bone (Zack Elbouzedi 58), Kevin Lynch, Rory Feely (Rob Slevin 71), Maxim Kouogun, Tom Holland (Dean Walsh 71), Shane Duggan, JJ Lunney, Walter Figueira, Georgie Poynton,, Michael O’Connor.
Referee: Damien McGrath.
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