Finn Harps 2 - 0 Athlone TownSat, Sep 08 2012
Finn Harps stretched their unbeaten run to nine games with their first win of the season against Athlone Town at Finn Park on Saturday night.
Paul McVeigh capitalised on a misplaced back-pass by Stephen Last to hand the home side a one-goal interval lead, the attacker maintaining his blistering form of late with a fifth goal in nine outings. And nineteen minutes into the second-half Kevin McHugh marked his return to the side with his fifth strike in six games, the Harps skipper firing home from twelve yards to seal the points for Peter Hutton’s side.
The visitors, who were undefeated from their three previous meeting with Harps, rallied well in the dying stages but failed to take advantage of the openings they were handed, with Mark McGoldrick guilty of not reducing the arrears with a shot from three yards out.
With both sides level on points going into the game, the win sees Harps steal a march in the fight for fourth spot, although the Midlanders still have a game to spare over their northwest counterparts.
Harps welcomed Aaron O’Hagan and Kevin McHugh back into the starting line-up following their one-game suspensions, but Thomas McBride had to settle for a place on the bench, having completed his lengthy eight-match touchline ban. Meanwhile, Athlone, under the guidance of Padraig Moran following the departure of Mike Kerley as manager, had two former Harps players, Barry O'Mahony and Mark McGoldrick, in their starting line-up.
The visitors produced the first meaningful shot of the game on thirteen minutes, with Stephen Last firing inches past the base of the right-hand post following a knockdown by Neil Harney, while at the other end a great run and cross by McHugh took Michael Funston by surprise as the midfielder couldn’t react quick enough to his team-mates teasing ball across the face of goal.
Harps had looked the more threatening from open play and, on twenty-two minutes, Matt Harkin weaved his magic down the left flank before curling a delicious ball into the area where Shaun McGowan arrived right on cue to smash a header off the top of the crossbar.
A quick-thinking McHugh then released strike-partner McVeigh over the top of the defence but the winger couldn’t steer his half-volley on target.
Athlone though, soon shot themselves in the foot as Harps were gift-wrapped an opener seven minutes before the break. A sloppy back-pass by Stephen Last left both his defence and goalkeeper short-changed and McVeigh showed good alertness to race in and roll the ball under the onrushing Pat Jennings. The former Fanad United man, with confidence visibly streaming through his veins, tried his luck again on the brink of half-time but this time Jennings was right behind his shot from the edge of the area.
The hosts were then left feeling aggrieved that they didn’t have a penalty awarded in the early stages of the second half as McCarthy climbed all over the back of McVeigh. And although referee Adriano Reale waved away that appeal, he had no choice but to point to the spot on sixty-four minutes when second-half replacement Niall Scullion hacked down Harkin inside the area. McHugh stepped up and found the top right-hand corner, despite a strong hand from Jennings to try and keep it out.
Athlone, unsurprisingly, threw more men forward in the final twenty minutes but their luck was out as they passed a couple of gilt-edged chances to suffer their first defeat against Harps this season.
Finn Harps: Ciaran Gallagher; James Doherty, Keith Cowan, Thomas McMonagle, Ciaran Coll; Shaun McGowan, Aaron O’Hagan, Michael Funston (Thomas McBride, 85); Paul McVeigh (Dean McConnell, 90), Kevin McHugh, Matthew Harkin (Adam Clarke, 85).
Unused Subs: Thomas Bonnar, Rory Kelly, Chris McBride, Cathal McDaid.
Booked: Harkin, McGowan, O’Hagan.
Athlone Town: Pat Jennings; Neil Harney, Brian McCarthy, Stephen Last, Ross Kenny; Shane Dunne (Ian Sweeney, 58), Damien Rushe, Barry O’Mahony, Brian Gill (Niall Scullion, 58); Mark McGoldrick, Noel McGee.
Unused Subs: Eric Molloy, Lee Sung, Joe Woods, Val Feeney, Scott Gaynor.
Booked: Rushe, McGee.
Referee: Adriano Reale.
Extratime.ie man of the match: Matt Harkin (Finn Harps).