SEAN HOUSTON struck a dramatic injury time equaliser that could prove priceless in so many ways for Finn Harps.
Finn Harps 1 St Patrick’s Athletic 1
Houston arrowed into the top corner in the 92nd minute to earn Ollie Horgan’s men a point that moves them NINE points ahead of Wexford Youths in the race for survival.
With three games remaining, Harps have their fingers on survival now and the old venue shook as Houston drilled into the top corner.
Time took a pause when a corner was only partially cleared. As the ball dropped from the sky, Houston already had his target lined up and he expertly shot high into the Town End net.
In a game of few chances, Harps looked set to fall to defeat after Donegal man Mark Timlin opened the scoring on 64 minutes – just four minutes after Harps saw defender Keith Cowan leave on a stretcher.
The two crushing blows combined to hand Harps an uphill battle, but Houston was Harps’ saviour.[adrotate group=”85″]
The Pat’s goal is not one that Horgan or his players will reflect on with much fondness.
Conan Byrne placed the ball on a plate for Buncrana native Timlin, who finished tidily from close range after ghosting in behind a Harps defence still reeling from Cowan’s loss.
An already wafer-thin Harps squad was dealt another crushing blow when, eight minutes into the second half, Cowan went to ground after appearing to stub his foot in the turf and went down awkwardly.[adrotate group=”80″]
The howl of agony from the centre-back said it all and there was a delay of seven minutes before the Ramelton man was stretchered off and taken away in the Red Cross ambulance.
The loss of Cowan hurt Harps and, just four minutes after the re-start, Conan Byrne’s dangerous centre was turned home by Timlin.
Horgan gave a first start of the year to teenage striker BJ Banda, hot on the heels of a match-winning hat-trick for the club’s under-19s in Saturday’s quarter-final against Cork City.[adrotate group=”50″]
Banda, though, was replaced by Tony McNamee on the hour having struggled to get into the contest.
This was the second attempt at playing this fixture after the original clash at the end of September was called off just 40 minutes prior to kick-off when referee Tom Connolly deemed the Finn Park surface to have been unplayable.
That came after their first meeting of the season also fell victim to heavy rainfall.
St Pat’s gave Harps a massive favour on Friday night with a 4-1 win over Wexford Youths and Liam Buckley made just one change from that side, Buncrana’s Timlin earning a recall.
Timlin was slotted into the side in place of Billy Dennehy and was slipped in around the back of the home rearguard after 20 minutes.
After connecting with Jamie McGrath’s pass, Timlin couldn’t get enough quality or convinction on his shot and the chance was gone.[adrotate group=”38″]
Pat’s had another decent opening when Christy Fagan was picked out by Conan Byrne’s deep cross, but the striker arrowed his shot wide of the mark.
McGrath tried to catch Ciaran Gallagher out with a cheeky chipped effort, having turned away from Damien McNulty, but the Harps ‘keeper was alert enough to prevent a disaster.
Harps curtailed Pat’s advances without creating much themselves, save for an off-target attempt by Ryan Curran after 30 seconds.
Fifteen minutes from time, McNamee whizzed a free just wide as Harps sought a means of clawing something back and aiding their survival bid.[adrotate group=”83″]
The chance looked gone until Houston popped up, Finn Park shook.
They very nearly are, as the club refrain goes, ‘really here to stay’.
Finn Harps: Ciaran Gallagher; Ethan Boyle, Damien McNulty, Keith Cowan (Packie Mailey 60), Ciaran Coll; Michael Funston, Barry Molloy (Dave Scully 75), Gareth Harkin, Ryan Curran; Sean Houston, BJ Banda (Tony McNamee 60).
St Patrick’s Athletic: Brendan Clarke; Ger O’Brien, Michael Barker, Darren Dennehy, Ian Bermingham; Conan Byrne, Mark Timlin (Billy Dennehy 84), Lee Desmond, Graham Kelly, Jamie McGrath (Darragh Markey 87); Christy Fagan (Dinny Corcoran 71).
Referee: Ray Matthews (Mullingar),Tags: