ON A NIGHT when their play-off opponents were confirmed, Finn Harps made use of the squad to share the spoils at Athlone Town.
Athlone Town 1-1 Finn Harps
UCD sealed third place in the SSE Airtricity League Division One courtesy of a 1-0 win over Cabinteely FC as Shelbourne went 4-1 down at Wexford Youths.
Therefore, Harps will play the first of their play-off fixtures at Belfield on Friday, October 23, with the home leg to come a week later in Ballybofey.
Two essentially dead-ish rubbers, the first of which took place tonight Lisseywollen against Athlone Town this evening before champions Wexford come to Finn Park next weekend, were Harps’ appointments till then.
Tonight, Matthew Crossan cancelled out an opener for Athlone Town’s Gavin Boyne.
Kevin McHugh, Wilfried Tagbo, Ciaran Coll and Tony McNamee were all suspended against Athlone, so there were windows of opportunity for others to plant a seed.
Manager Ollie Horgan admitted these two fixtures between now and then are a decent example to give certain players game-time they might need.
That was the theme of the night in the midlands, with Kieran McDaid and BJ Banda enjoying decent first starts for the club, as Gareth Doherty and Conor Keddy made debuts and the likes of Packie Mailey got a useful 90 minutes under his belt.
Also, to cap a reasonable satisfactory night, there were no fresh injuries picked up and Harps’ unbeaten run is now at six outings.
Banda’s perseverance was the reason for the equalising goal on 36 minutes. From what appeared to be a lost cause, the former Letterkenny Rovers frontman harried Stephen Dunne and having won possession at the byline, passed back to Raymond Foy who in turned laid on for Crossan to side-foot home.
Athlone had gone ahead in the 10th minute when McDaid was adamant it should’ve been a Harps goal kick and not a corner to the hosts. However, Boyne looped a shot into the top corner when the ball found its way to him.
Harps were decent in possession and created a few half chances, one coming even before the goal when Aidan Friel – Athlone’s right-back from Strabane – cleared off the line from Crossan after Foy’s third minute corner.
In the second half, Patrick Dunican made comfortable saves from Foy and Michael Funston but, a bit like when Harps lost the same fixture 1-0 in June, they seemed to let their standards drop late on. That night before the mid-season break they were punished by Marco Chindea.
However, closer to winter, three chances in two minutes for Athlone weren’t taken. Friel nipped in ahead of Tommy McMonagle from a ball by Daniel Molloy and show wide in the 69th minute, before a cross from Molloy should really have had a recipient as it cut the daisies along Ciaran Gallagher’s six-yard line.
Then, a minute later, the Harps goalkeeper had to be on his toes to fingertip away an awkward centre from Friel.
Harps did create a couple of half-chances late on as Packie Mailey almost bundled home and Banda was off target from a ball that came his way. Daniel Purdy had the last opportunity of the evening but he could only shoot wide and it finished honours even.
Both sets of supporters clapped both sets of players from the field. It was Athlone’s last home outing of the season, but for Harps there’s still so much to play for.
Athlone Town: Patrick Dunican; Aidan Friel, Aidan Collins, Stephen Dunne; Daniel Purdy, Gavin Boyne, Drek Doyle, Cian O’Sullivan; Philip Gorman, Sam O’Connor (Daniel Molloy 68).
Finn Harps: Ciaran Gallagher; Josh Mailey, Packie Mailey, Keith Cowan, Thomas McMonagle (Gareth Doherty 80); Michael Funston (Conor Keddy 84), Matthew Crossan, Gareth Harkin, Raymond Foy, Kieran McDaid (Damien McNulty 67); BJ Banda.
Referee: David Keller.Tags: