Shaun Williams 24' -
Resolute Finn Harps held on for victory against a determined UCD at Ballybofey tonight as a brilliant 25th minute goal from Shaun Williams giving Paul Hegarty's side their second win in three games.
Despite having deployed a make-shift back-four and despite coming under intense pressure from the Dubliners for long periods, Harps took the win on a blustery night by the Finn.
While the UCD line-up ran along expected lines, the Harps starting eleven contained some four changes from the team that had lost to Derry City in last week's North West derby. Of the back four, Sean Roddy was the only one to retain his place with Declan Boyle, Marc Mukendi and Jonathan Minnock all coming in for their first starts of the season while, in attack, Kevin Ramsey made his Harps debut, replacing the injured Stephen Parkhouse.
Having weathered some early pressure from the Students, Harps bagged the lead goal 25 minutes in with their first meaningful shot at Matt Gregg's goal. Jonathan Minnock's long throw in from the left was headed clear, but Shaun Williams picked up possession on the edge of the box and he beat Gregg with a sweet effort with the outside of his foot. Moments later, the on-loan Drogheda United winger came close to doubling the advantage, but his right-footed effort whizzed past the post.
UCD's best chance of the first half fell to Ian Bermingham, but he flashed a header across the face of goal with the scoreline still reading 0-0. With the visitors gradually gaining the upper hand, home nerves were settled when Williams broke the deadlock against the run of play.
Nine minutes into the second half, Declan Boyle connected with a Conor Gethins corner, but he headed straight at goalkeeper Gregg before UCD began to dictate and indeed the visitors will feel aggrieved not to have departed with at least a point having came close to equalising on a number of occasions.
Just after the hour mark, Paul Byrne came close to netting his third goal in as many game, but he headed wide while Alan McNally looped his header over James Gallagher's crossbar and Ronan Finn blasted off target as UCD set about salvaging the contest.
Coming under severe scrutiny in the late stages, Harps thought they had sealed the issue when Conor Gethins turned home a cross from Marc Brolly, only to see the assistant referee's flag in the air for an offside infringement. In the end, Harps held on for a precious three points and maintain a 100% home record.
Finn Harps (4-4-2): James Gallagher; Sean Roddy, Declan Boyle, Marc Mukendi, Jonathan Minnock; Chris Breen (Gerry Gill 77), Tony Shields, Shaun McGowan, Shaun Williams; Conor Gethins (Marc Brolly 92), Kevin Ramsey (Michael Funston 71).
Subs not used: Gavin Cullen and Johnny Havlin.
UCD (4-4-2): Matt Gregg; Alan Mahon, Conor Kenna, Brian Shorthall, Ian Bermingham (Darren Forsyth 83); Brian King, Alan McNally, Ronan Finn, Patrick McWalter; Paul Byrne, Timmy Purcell (Shane Fitzgerald 66).
Subs not used: Billy Brennan, Killian Gallagher, Evan McMillan.
Referee: Derek Tomney.