Anto Flood should have given Shels the lead as early as the fifth minute following David Cassidy’s fine through ball, however his effort was easily saved by the feet of the Ciaran Gallagher, when one on one with the keeper’.
Another fine chance was spurned by the hosts five minutes later. David McGill’s lofted free kick from the halfway line was excellently controlled by the diminutive David Cassidy on the edge of the area. Cassidy played it to Peter Hynes who had spotted Gallagher miles off his line; however Hynes’ lob bounced off the bar and into the keeper’s hands.
Gallagher was again called to duty after thirteen minutes. Another long lofted free kick caused problems in Harps’ box as Richie Baker and Peter Hynes combined to set up Mark O’Brien on the edge of the area. O’Brien struck a strong shot on target, yet it was too close to Gallagher and was tipped over the bar.
In the twenty-fourth minute, Hynes’ quick reflexes twenty five yards out released Cassidy on goal but his shot fizzed just over the bar. However just thirty seconds later and Shels finally had the lead they deserved, thanks to club legend Richie Baker. Flood’s cute control at the edge of the area, despite very tight marking, saw him play in Baker whose cute finish beat Gallagher at the near post. With everyone expecting another touch before his shot, Baker surprised Gallagher to find the back of the net.
The pressure was mounting in the Finn Harps half and Shels were enjoying plenty of opportunities. Cassidy flicked the ball over Michael Funston on the edge of the area but unfortunately clipped his left footed curling effort marginally over the bar. However moments later, in the thirty sixth minute, Shels were two up. As Cassidy chased a cross into Harps’ box, Ian Rossiter was adjudged to have felled the midfielder. David McAllister stepped up and, after having his initially effort retaken, found the corner to double the host’s lead.
Doom turned to gloom for the visitors three minutes before the break when Seamus Sharkey, booked for an earlier foul, hauled down Peter Hynes in a dangerous position on the edge of the area. His second yellow left Finn Harps with an absolute mountain to climb.
Immediately, Shels did their best to aid Harps’ cause, with Mark O’Brien given a straight red just before the break. O’Brien was unhappy with Michael Funston’s challenge, which Funston won a free for, and after shoving the Harps man to the ground, was only ever getting sent off.
The second half started brightly, with Finn Harps trying to make an early impression. But, again it was the totally dominant Shels that created the better opportunities. Anto Flood’s clever play released Baker down the right. His excellent cross could only have missed Cassidy by fractions as Gallagher thankfully collected in the visitors goal.
In the fifty second minute Flood’s hard work paid off again. He battled down the right and drilled a ball into the unmarked Hynes in front of goal however Gallagher got down low just before the striker could get to the ball.
Shelbourne were absolutely destroying Finn Harps. A corner wasn’t dealt with in the six yard box and it was only luck that saw the scramble succeed in blocking Shelbourne efforts. Then a Crawley free kick was flicked on by Hynes, but Gallagher saved well.
Every attack by the hosts looked likely to produce a goal, but somehow, none did. Then, with sixty five minutes on the clock, a surprising twist emerged. Marc Brolly, who had barely had a kick all game, turned inside two red shirts in the area, found a little bit of room, and hammered a fine shot into Dean Delaney’s far corner. Suddenly it looked like a third goal, in those dozens of clear chances, was needed.
Five minutes later and Flood was in on goal. One on one, with thirty yards to cover, Gallagher emerged big and made a great save to stop the striker. Then Baker was set free to run at goal, but his shot went the wrong side of the near post. The crowd began to get restless, regardless of the lead, as chance after chance was spurned. With moments to go Cassidy, who was excellent all night, missed Shels’ final chance of the game when Gallagher again closed down well to make a save at his body.
But 2-1 was enough and Shels’ maintain their seemingly relentless push for promotion. With Finn Harps (away) as their game in hand, confidence must be very high.
Man of the match: David Cassidy – picked as early as the 23rd minute, dominant to the finish.
Shelbourne: Delaney, McGill, Synnott, Crawley, Hedderman, O’Brien, McAllister, Cassidy, Hynes (Doyle 80), Flood (Douglas 71) Baker Subs not used: O’Reilly, O’Brien, Whelan
Finn Harps: Gallagher, Rossiter, Whoriskey (Coll 66), Sharkey, McGowan, P Bonner, Forker, Funston (Moran 80), F Bonner, Brolly, McLaughlin (Doherty 45) Subs not used: McMenamin, Mailey