MUST win, they said – and, thanks to Kevin McHugh, that’s exactly what Finn Harps did.
Finn Harps 1 Shelbourne 0
McHugh netted the 182nd goal of his Harps career with a penalty eight minutes into the second half to give Ollie Horgan’s side a much-needed win that keeps their promotion hopes very much alive.
Harps now have six points to spare on fourth-placed Shelbourne after McHugh kept his cool from the spot after Michael Funston’s cross struck the arm of Shels defender Evan Osam.
McHugh made no mistake, firing powerfully and emphatically beyond goalkeeper Greg Murray. It was the second time this season that a McHugh penalty was the difference in these teams at Finn Park.
Picture caption: Finn Harps captain Kevin McHugh breaks through the Shelbourne F.C. dfefence. Photo by Gary Foy, newsandsportfiles
It was no more than the hosts deserved, but it was a night when they could have been more comfortable with a glut of missed chances making it an anxious conclusion, particularly when the board of fourth official Michael Connolly indicated five added minutes at the end.
Harps opened with a purpose to their play with Funston heading wide form a McHugh cross before McHugh miscued from Nathan Boyle’s superb ball in from the right.
They should have hit the front in the eleventh minute. Gareth Harkin, Tony McNamee and McHugh worked the chance, but Harkin, who ghosted in around the back, hit a tame shot into the arms of Murray.
Shels were restricted to half chances in the opening 45 minutes, Dylan McGlade seeing a powerful hit blocked down by Matthew Crossan and, on the half hour, Jake Donnelly, attempted from distance, but couldn’t keep his effort down.
Crossan was in the thick of it at the other end, too, but the Killea man’s header, from Harkin’s corner, was kept out by Murray.
The danger was the longer the game went on without a Harps goal that their profligacy would once again haunt them.
And it almost did right on the stroke of half-time when McGlade worked his way into an alley of space, but his right-footed shot flew up and over Ciaran Gallagher’s crossbar with hearts in the mouths of the natives.
Horgan shook things up with his starting XI showing three changes to the team that lost 2-0 in Wexford seven nights previously – a result that meant Harps lost their slot at the summit.
Damien McNulty returned from suspension to take his spot at right-back while there were recalls for McNamee and McHugh. Thomas McMonagle and Wilfried Tagbo dropped to the bench with no place in the squad for the unavailable new signing Rob Waters.
Gallagher clawed away a dangerous cross from Phillip Hughes before McNulty charged down an attempt from McGlade after McHugh raised the decibel levels inside the old ground.
McNulty headed over a McNamee cross and Murray just about got control of things when in a tangle with Boyle.
Five minutes of added time meant the nerves were in shreds, but when the long, final shrill of the whistle came, once again McHugh was the Harps match-winner – and how precious a goal this could be in the run-in.
Finn Harps: Ciaran Gallagher; Damien McNulty, Keith Cowan, Ciaran Coll; Matthew Crossan; Nathan Boyle (Kieran McDaid ’89), Michael Funston (Wilfried Tagbo ’77), Raymond Foy, Gareth Harkin; Tony McNamee; Kevin McHugh (Packie Mailey ’90).
Shelbourne: Greg Murray; Adam O’Connor, Sean Heaney, Ryan Robinson, Evan Osam (Mark Sandford ‘66); Dylan McGlade, Darragh Doyle, Jake Donnelly (Craig Walsh ’55), Gareth Coughlan; Philip Hughes (Car Walsh ’77), James English.
Referee: Simon Rogers (Dublin).Tags: