Finn Harps snatch vital late point against St Patrick’s Athletic
Sean Houston’s injury-time strike brings Premier Division survival closer
Sean Houston’s injury-time goal earned Finn Harps a priceless point against St Pat’s. Photograph: Inpho
Finn Harps are on course to preserve their League of Ireland Premier Division status next season as they snatched a dramatic draw against a St. Patrick’s Athletic in Ballybofey.
Harps are now nine points above Wexford Youths who are in the relegation play-off position although they have four games left compared with just three for the Donegal side.
The warning signs were there for Harps in the opening quarter. Twice Ciaran Gallagher was forced to make saves from Pat’s players that had strayed into off-side positions.
On 20 minutes, Pat’s spurned a wonderful opportunity. Jamie McGrath provided the inventiveness after a neat-build up with an incisive pass for Timlin to run onto inside the box but he pulled his shot badly to the right of the target.
On 43 minutes Sean Houston did manage to get in behind the Pat’s backline and found Banda, but his shot was blocked.
Harps were dealt a blow on 54 minutes when Keith Cowan, clearly in pain, had to be stretchered off following a four minute delay, and taken to hospital.
Pat’s broke the deadlock on 63 minutes when Conan Byrne crossed from the right and Mark Timlin swivelled to fire past Gallagher.
Substitute Tony McNamee went close to equalising on 75 minutes but curled a free-kick just wide.
Both sides had chances late on in an exciting finish with ten minutes of stoppage time.
Meanwhile, in a week that has seen the news that veteran striker Kevin McHugh’s League of Ireland playing days are over (he sustained a nasty injury to his finger), a new name was being chanted on the Ballybofey terraces, that of teenager BJ Banda. A goalscoring hero in the promotion race last year, he made only his fourth appearance in the Premier Division but lasted just an hour.
Finn Harps: Gallagher; Boyle, McNulty, Cowan (P. Mailey, 60), Coll; Funston, Harkin, Molloy (Scully 75), Curran; Houston; Banda (McNamee 60)
St. Patrick’s Athletic: Clarke; O’Brien, Barker, D. Dennehy, Bermingham; Byrne, Desmond. MGrath (Markey 87), Kelly, Timlin (B. Dennehy 84); Fagan (Corcoran 70).
Referee: R. Matthews (Dublin).