A single Kevin McHugh goal was enough for Finn Harps to end their seven-game winless streak in the Airtricity League First Division against Wexford Youths.
Finn Harps 1
Wexford Youths 0
With Harps have amassed just two points from 21 and Wexford losing each of their previous four, it’s fair to say as classic was never expected at Finn Park.
Manager Peter Hutton was an absentee for the home team whilst holidaying but Sean McGowan and Paddy Foy were charged with trying to get Harps’ first win since May 17 against Mervue United. They delivered.
And despite their current quandary, Harps are still only five points off third spot, the play-off place, and Waterford United after leapfrogging Wexford with a first win in eight.
McHugh slotted home the only goal on 47 minutes from a matter of inches to the relief of the scattered few in attendance; a crowd of barely 200. The Harps captain had little to do when Michael Funston carved a hole in the Wexford defence and the overlapping James Doherty swept the ball across the six-yard box.
Paul McVeigh was first to try and steer home Doherty’s centre but having not got enough purchase, it was left to McHugh to complete the formalities with his seventh goal of the season.
There were few clear cut chances in the first half as the visitors lined out with a 4-5-1 formation and were solid for the most part on their third trip to the Twin Towns this season – a 0-0 draw in the league followed by a 2-1 loss in the FAI Cup second round. The closest either side came to scoring early on was when Mark Forker dispossessed
Gary Delaney in the 18-yard box. Forker might’ve tried to be a little bit too deliberate in placing the ball into the bottom corner. But his idea was fine, although the execution was marginally off and his sidefoot was inches wide of Graham Doyle’s upright as Finn Park held its breath.
Beforehand, it was Wexford who had the first sight of goal on 11 minutes when Danny Fitzpatrick’s fizzler was saved well by Ciaran Gallagher, one-handed down to his right.
Harps’ best chance in the opening exchanges was when McHugh cut in from the left at the other end and tried to delicately nutmeg Doyle at his near post. However, the Wexford goalkeeper got the telling touch with his foot and Funston’s drive from the rebound wasn’t on target and McVeigh’s header caused no danger.
Wexford manager Shane Keegan made eight changes to the team that went down 2-0 at home to Waterford United and his team had to become a little more adventurous having gone a goal down.
That in turn left a couple of holes at the back and McVeigh was on the scene on a couple of occasions with half chances but couldn’t enable his side to double their lead.
At the other end, substitute Joey Mulchay curled a free kick just wide of Harps goal after Gary Delaney had drawn another decent save from Gallagher. But it certainly wasn’t one-way traffic as Doherty and Funston again combined well on the right but again the latter’s shot was dangerously across the area.
Then McHugh almost grabbed his second, 10 minutes from time, only for Rob Maloney to deflect the trickler just wide. But it mattered little and after numerous steps backwards in recent weeks Harps followers can at least be content with a long overdue forward jump.
Finn Harps: Ciaran Gallagher; James Doherty, Thomas McMonagle, Keith
Cowan, Ciaran Coll; Michael Funston (Aaron O’Hagan 90), Shaun McGowan,
Mark Forker (Tommy Bonnar 82), Michéal Doherty (Johnny Bonner 77); Paul McVeigh, Kevin McHugh.
Wexford Youths: Graham Doyle; Jonathan Savage, Gary Delaney, Rob
Maloney, Jimmy Dermody (Craig McCabe 19); Danny Fitzpatrick, Caolan
O’Gorman (Shane Nolan 64), Donal Sharkey, Brian Nolan, Daryl Power
(Joe Mulchay 64); Graham Delaney.
Referee: Conor Fitzgerald.