Finn Harps 2-0 Drogheda Utd (Harps win 3-1 on aggregate)
Goals from John Kavanagh and Nathan Boyle secured Finn Harps a deserved win over Drogheda Utd in the second leg of the play-offs in Ballybofey. It meant a 3-1 aggregate victory for the Donegal side and the result now sees Ollie Horgan’s outfit take on Premier Division side Limerick F.C. in the promotion/relegation play-offs with the first leg on Monday week (October 29th) at Finn Park. The return game will be at the Markets Field on the following Friday. Harps started brightly against Drogheda but then the visitors had a brief spell of dominance before the hosts got a crucial opening goal on 18 minutes courtesy of Kavanagh. It was the on-loan Cork City man’s first goal for the club.
The home side lost momentum after taking the lead and were perhaps a shade lucky not to have conceded before the break. Whatever was said at half-time had the desired effect as Harps were on the front foot from the restart and should have doubled their advantage on 49 minutes when Boyle missed a sitter after being setup by skipper Keith Cowan. However, Boyle did make amends by finding the back of the net on 66 minutes. Understandably there were still a few anxious moments in the closing stages but keeper Ciaran Gallagher really only had one save of note to make.
Harps had their biggest attendance of the season with the majority of the 2,200 fans backing the hosts. Horgan made three personnel changes from the draw in Drogheda with Boyle, Mark Coyle and Paddy McCourt all starting. Gareth Harkin was missing through injury while Niall Logue and Jesse Devers were among the subs. Boyle’s weaving run on ten minutes saw the Derry man shoot narrowly wide. Harps did go in front on 18 minutes when Boyle teed up Kavanagh who drilled the ball low past Paul Skinner after Mark Timlin had provided the cross. Drogheda did have a chance just before that goal when a Jacob Borg error allowed Gareth McCaffrey in but his attempt when over the bar shot over the bar. Boyle was then denied by Skinner.
Harps were on the back foot for most of the remainder of the first half and were guilty of losing possession a little to easily on a handful of occasions. The closest the visitors came to an equaliser was four minutes before the break when Mark Doyle’s cross/cum shot just eluded the outstretched leg of McCaffrey at the far post.
The half-time team talk delivered by Horgan worked a treat as Harps were really full of energy and mounted a succession of dangerous attacking moves. Boyle should have put his side 2-0 up on 49 minutes and the striker was also denied by a super save from Skinner. But Boyle was not to be denied and on 66 minutes, he latched onto a Mark Coyle pass before cutting inside to fire low to the bottom corner of the Drogheda net at the town end of the ground. There were a few anxious moments for the home fans as Drogheda tried to get a goal back. Ciaran Gallagher made one decent save at the expense of a corner and an injury time Lee Duffy header was brilliantly cleared off the line by Ciaran Coll. At the other end Harps should have make it 3-0 just before that when with the visitors all pushed up, sub Jesse Devers went clear from the half-line but the Mayo man’s final pass was poor allowing Skinner to make an easy interception when maybe the better option would have been to shoot himself.
Finn Harps – Ciaran Gallagher, John Kavanagh, Jacob Borg, Keith Cowan, Sam Todd, Ciaran Coll; Mark Coyle, Paddy McCourt (Niall Logue 74 mins), Mark Timlin; Nathan Boyle (Jesse Devers 77 mins), Mikey Place (John O’Flynn 91 mins). Not used: Peter Burke (Gk), Aidan Friel, Niall McGinley, Timmy Sobowale.
Drogheda United – Paul Skinner, Colm Deasy, Conor Kane, Kevin Farragher, Ciaran Kelly, Luke Gallagher, Ritchie Purdy, Sean Brennan, Gareth McCaffrey (Janabi Amour 70 mins), Mark Doyle, William Hondermarck (Lee Duffy 58 mins).
Referee: Derek Tomney.
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