Finn Harps’ losing streak edged out to five games after a late goal from Ben Ryan gave Waterford United the points at Finn Park on Friday night.
Ryan tucked home from inside the six-yard box eight minutes from time following a Paul Phelan corner that was perilously allowed to hop in the Harps area for the simplest of goals to ruin Harps manager Peter Hutton’s first game in solitary charge.
Since the home side were missing their two top scorers – Kevin McHugh and Adam Clarke - through suspension their attacking options were somewhat blunted. Hutton now faces a striking dilemma with McHugh due to miss another three games and Clarke two, while Blain Curtis hobbled off and it was also learned on the night that Hugh Carlin will be out for the remainder of the season – a timeframe Stephen O’Donnell is also out for.
Harps travel to the Brandywell on Friday night to take on local rivals Derry City in the second round of the FAI Cup with the thinning squad after another difficult week for the Ballybofey club.
Former director of football Felix Healy, who resigned from his position following the 3-0 loss at the hands of Wexford Youths seven nights beforehand, was in attendance and watched on from the clubhouse.
Harps went into the game on the back of a four-game losing streak. In the first half, although they were certainly committed, it was a bland game in terms of goalscoring opportunities. Neither goalkeeper was tested in the first 45 minutes. There was scent entertainment of the 354 hardy souls in attendance.
It was the visitors who created the best of the few openings there was. Four minutes before the break, Sean Maguire was fed by Peter Keegan but opted for power and smashed his effort narrowly wide.
On the stroke of half-time, Shaun McGowan was dispossessed in the middle third and Peter Higgins set Phelan away. However, Ciaran Gallagher in the Harps goal was alert and got in an important block.
Then, on the hour-mark, Keegan got the better of Thomas McMonagle on the left and centred to Maguire in space in the middle. Gallagher, though, in the Harps goal did well to save at the highly-rated Irish schoolboys’ international’s feet.
Nine minutes later Thomas Bonner almost scored a calamitous own goal when his attempted clearance almost rolled over his own goal-line only for Ciaran Coll to save the full-back’s blushes. At the other end, Harps’ best chance came and went when Aaron O’Hagan powered a header straight at Packie Holden following a corner from Thomas McBride.
The second half performance was though, an improvement although missing so many experienced players made a difficult assignment even tougher.
It looked as though no goal would arrive but Harps inabilities to defend from corners, which is something that has blighted their chances all season, again cost them dearly in a useful away win for Waterford.
Finn Harps: Ciaran Gallagher; Thomas Bonnar, Aaron O’Hagan, Thomas McMonagle, Ciaran Coll; Matthew Harkin, Thomas McBride, Shaun McGowan, Paul Simon Tracey; Shane McGinty (Jordan Duffy 86), Blain Curtis (Gary Merritt 54).
Subs Not Used: Rory Kelly, James Doherty, Paul McVeigh, Ciaran Greene.
Waterford United: Packie Holden; Paul Carey (Dylan Mernagh 25), Craig Burns, Seamus Long, John Frost (Gary Dunphy 59); Paul Phelan, Gary Dempsey, Peter Higgins, Ben Ryan; Peter Keegan (Darragh Walsh 80), Sean Maguire.
Subs Not Used: Robert Hughes, David Breen, Conor Coad, Gary Keane.
Referee: Phil Caschera.