STEPHEN KENNY reads the League of Ireland like few others – and he called this one five minutes into the second half.
Finn Harps 1 Longford Town 0
The Dundalk manager was an interested observer here.
Kenny lives in Fahan and reckoned on a quick visit to the press benches that ‘it’s only matter of time ‘til Harps score’.
Seven minutes later and Ryan Curran was scoring the 57th minute penalty that handed Finn Harps a useful and deserved, yet hard-earned win over battling Longford Town in Ballybofey.
Ethan Boyle’s industry down the right flank won the penalty. The Republic of Ireland Under-19 international burst into the box and was clipped just inside the box.
Curran stepped up and sent the penalty straight and true down the middle past the dive of Longford ‘keeper Paul Skinner.
The goal came after a sustained period of pressure by Harps.
No sooner had he left than Boyle was going to ground, referee Derek Tomney was pointing to the spot and Curran was wheeling away after opening the scoring.
It was no more than Harps deserved, but the goal forced Tony Cousins’ Longford to come out and play.
They should have drawn level when Peter McGlynn squared for Kealon Dillon, but he fired wide from a glorious position on the edge of the Harps box.
It was a warning shot and a wake-up call all at once for Harps.
The home side could have put the game to bed when a cross from veteran striker Kevin McHugh found Adam Hanlon at the back post, but an awkward attempt was saved by Skinner.
Harps boss Ollie Horgan began with the same XI that drew 1-1 in Sligo last Saturday night, meaning those from the second string – who laboured to a 1-0 win over Cockhill Celtic on Tuesday night – were replaced again.
That game in The Showgrounds ended prematurely as referee Padraigh Sutton was forced to abandon ship in the 87th minute because of partial floodlight failure.
The result was allowed stand by League Director Fran Gavin but if last week’s issue was not making the finish line, a false start looked possible here for a time.
There were real concerns in the hours leading up to the game that heavy rainfall might have rendered Finn Park unplayable, but Tomney gave it the go-ahead.
Longford were quickest out of the blocks when, inside the first minute, Philip Gannon had just a little too much elevation on a shot from 25 yards that rose just a fraction too late.
Richard Brush darted out to deny Josh O’Hanlon – on loan from Bournemouth – after the striker scampered onto a ball over the top.
O’Hanlon should have done better in the 27th minute when he connected with a cross by Jamie Mulhall, but made a mess of converting and Brush saved easily.
Mulhall had saved the Longford bacon earlier in the game when he cleared off the line after Curran’s cool shot beat Skinner after Tony McNamee’s delicious ball around the back left him eyeing the target.
Mulhall came to the rescue again when he flicked a header behind for a corner with Curran set to convert from Hanlon’s superb cross.
Dave Scully had a sight of goal, too, but the ball hung in the air for an age after spinning off a Longford defender and the Harps striker couldn’t get enough on his attempt.
Harps had a spring in their step at the outset of the second half with Curran’s first touch letting him down at the vital moment and Scully, just, missing a connection to a McNamee cross.
Keith Cowan was denied by Longford skipper Noel Haverty and Hanlon drilled over – following a neat exchange between McNamee and Curran – as Harps turn the screw in the opening five minutes
Hanlon should have done better when fed by the excellent Scully, but he skied a shot with only Skinner to beat.
Finn Harps: Richard Brush; Damien McNulty, Packie Mailey, Keith Cowan, Ciaran Coll; Adam Hanlon, Ethan Boyle, Gareth Harkin, Dave Scully (Kevin McHugh 74); Tony McNamee (Raymond Foy 79); Ryan Curran (Michael Funston 86).
Longford Town: Paul Skinner; Mark Hughes, Noel Haverty, Daniel O’Reilly, Jamie Mulhall; Kealon Dillon (John McKeown 82), Philip Gannon, Peter McGlynn (Karl Chambers 69), Kaleem Simon; Josh O’Hanlon, David O’Sullivan.
Referee: Derek Tomney.Tags: