After going ten games unbeaten in the league Finn Harps extended that to 11 in the first leg of the promotion play-off thanks to sub Nathan Boyle’s 66th minute equaliser against Drogheda at United Park. Ollie Horgan’s outfit had trailed from the 12th minute and were perhaps fortunate not to have been behind by more at the break. The three-week lay-off had clearly affected the match sharpness of the Harps players but they did up their performance in the second half and in the end deserved a share of the spoils. The result sets it up for a winner takes all in Ballybofey next Friday night where extra-time and penalties will be on standby to decide the outcome if necessary.
Horgan had a full squad to choose from but his side were slow to settle against a Drogheda side that had booked their place in this play-off by defeating Shelbourne over two legs. The second leg went to penalties on Monday night at Tolka Park but Tim Clancy’s men showed little sign of a fatigue from that energy sapping encounter. The hosts went in front on 12 minutes when poor defending after a corner allowed Ciaran Kelly to steer the ball past Ciaran Gallagher. And there were a few more anxious moments for the sizeable travelling Harps support but the visitors did improve in the later stages of the half.
Mikey Place had a goal disallowed for an off-side offence.
Place also had another strike pushed out by Drogheda keeper Paul Skinner. Crucially just before the break Drogheda missed a glorious chance to double their advantage as the advancing Gallagher denied Mark Doyle in a one-on-one. Horgan made a couple of personnel changes early in the second half with Mark Coyle replacing Gareth Harkin while Nathan Boyle came on for Jesse Devers.
Boyle was only the field five minutes when he took control of a long kick-out from Gallagher before slipping by a couple of defenders and then shooting past keeper Skinner for a really well taken goal.
Harps then defended well as Drogheda tried to get a winner and so held on for that precious draw ahead of the second leg at Finn Park next Friday night.
Drogheda United – Paul Skinner, Colm Deasy, Conor Kane, Kealan Dillon, Kevin Farragher, Luke Gallagher, Sean Brennan, Chris Lyons, Mark Doyle, Ciaran Kelly, William Hondermarck.
Finn Harps – Ciaran Gallagher, John Kavanagh, Niall Logue, Keith Cowan, Sam Todd, Ciaran Coll, Jesse Devers (Nathan Boyle 61), Gareth Harkin (Mark Coyle 52), Mikey Place, Jacob Borg, Mark Timlin (Paddy McCourt 67). Not used: Peter Burke (Gk), John O’Flynn, Timmy Sobowale, Aidan Friel.
Ref: Neil Doyle.
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