Wexford Youths 2 - 2 Finn HarpsSat, Sep 22 2012
Finn Harps toasted a tenth game unbeaten but a series of sloppy defensive errors, coupled with the failure to convert several gilt-edged chances, left the players feeling dejected as they boarded the team bus ahead of their lengthy journey home from Wexford on Friday night.
Matt Harkin gave the visitors a thirteenth minute lead but, after conceding a needless free-kick, Wexford defender Jamie Carr headed home to leave the sides level pegging as they headed for the interval following a frenetic opening 45 minutes.
The six-and-a-half hour journey to Ferrycarrig appeared to take its toll on the Harps players who struggled at times with the pace of the game in the first half.
But they re-emerged after the restart refreshed and dominated the opening exchanges before Kevin McHugh dinked a glorious lob over Graham Doyle as Harps hit the front foot once more.
Peter Hutton’s side should’ve been out of sight by the hour-mark but were left to rue several missed opportunities, as Paul McVeigh’s golden touch in front of goal deserted him, with the Wexford defence at sixes and sevens.
Having been let off the hook by Harps’ lack of ruthlessness, Wexford restored parity thirteen minutes from time when Joey Mulcahy capitalised on yet more charitable defending from the away side.
The result meant Harps stretched their recent unbeaten run to ten games – their longest run without a defeat since their last promotion-winning campaign of 2007.
It also helped keep Friday night’s opponents at arm’s length in the fight for fourth place and, with two of their three remaining games at home, Harps will fancy their chances of seeing out the season in their current standing.
For the south-easterner’s, the draw all but consigns them to a fifth place finish following Mervue’s win over Athlone at the weekend.
Shane Keegan’s side were undefeated from their three previous meetings with Harps this season and their unrelenting style of play never allowed the heavy-legged visitor’s time to settle on the ball during a hectic opening.
Nevertheless, it was the Donegal side that broke the deadlock with virtually their first attack of the game.
McVeigh made good headway before the ball broke to strike-partner McHugh, who wasted no time with a wonderfully instinctive pass in behind the Wexford full-back. Harkin, having timed his run to perfection, raced clear and confidently tucked the ball under the onrushing ‘keeper.
Harps might’ve doubled their lead moments later but McVeigh’s header, from a delicious James Doherty cross, drifted just inches past the woodwork.
Having only threatened in fits and starts, Wexford were gifted a soft free-kick deep inside Harps territory when Keith Cowan upended Aidan Keenan. Mulcahy provided the delivery and Jamie Carr got across Thomas McMonagle all too easily to head in at the near post.
Cowan was then harshly booked for what seemed a fair challenge on Shane Nolan but, luckily for the centre-half, Ciaran Gallagher was right behind Danny Furlong’s 25-yard free-kick.
Shortly before half-time, McMonagle produced a brilliant covering tackle on Furlong, who appealed strongly for a penalty after the Harps defender’s trailing arm appeared to catch the ball. Referee Rhona Daly, however, had other ideas and allowed play to continue.
The Finn Park outfit controlled much of the opening play of the second half and deservedly retook the lead when McHugh latched onto a perfectly-weighted through-ball down the inside right channel by Michael Funston before catching Doyle off his line with a glorious lob.
McVeigh then passed up three clear-cut chances in quick succession, two of which were one-on-ones, as Harps failed to convert their dominance onto the score-board.
Having survived that early onslaught, Wexford were then afforded an all too soft equaliser as Brian Nolan raced to the byline before dragging back for Mulcahy to hammer home unmarked from ten yards.
Both sides pushed hard for a winner late on but, in the end, were forced to settle for a share of the spoils, the second time a row they have done so.
Wexford Youths: Graham Doyle; Shane Clarke (Dean Broaders 77), Jamie Carr, CJ Browne, Shaun Corcoran; Joey Mulcahy, Thomas Croke, Brian Nolan, Aidan Keenan; Shane Nolan (Tom Elmes 63), Danny Furlong (Glen Hawe 90).
Subs not used: James Darmody, Paul Malone, Caolan O'Gorman.
Booked: S Nolan (20), Keenan (73), Croke (78).
Finn Harps: Ciaran Gallagher; James Doherty, Keith Cowan, Thomas McMonagle, Ciaran Coll; Michael Funston (Thomas McBride 73), Shaun McGowan, Aaron O’Hagan, Matt Harkin; Paul McVeigh (Adam Clarke 88), Kevin McHugh.
Subs: Shaun Patton, Chris McBride, Thomas Bonner, Jordan Duffy.
Booked: O’Hagan (29), Coll (78), Harkin (90+4).
Referee: Rhona Daly.
Extratime.ie man of the match: Kevin McHugh (Finn Harps).