Hutton’s last act as Finn Harps boss is win over Athlone Town

Alan Foley at Finn P

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Alan Foley at Finn P

Hutton’s last act as Finn Harps boss is win over Athlone Town
Peter Hutton resigned as Finn Harps manager in the wake of their 3-2 win over Airtricity League Division One champions Athlone Town on Friday.

Peter Hutton resigned as Finn Harps manager in the wake of their 3-2 win over Airtricity League Division One champions Athlone Town on Friday.

Hutton saw his team win for only the third time in 16 matches as watched on from the terrace.

The former Derry City captain was serving the second of his three-match touchline ban following his dismissal in Harps’ 1-1 FAI Cup quarter-final draw with Drogheda United last month.

He stepped aside before the final game of the season at Salthill Devon next week.

The result was ultimately irrelevant after the side managed by Roddy Collins had clinched the title when Philip Gorman’s penalty was the only goal in their 1-0 win over Waterford United at Lisseywollen seven nights’ beforehand.

And with the championship trophy headed into their grateful grasp when they welcome neighbours and rivals Longford Town next week, Athlone were stuck between two stools in the north-west.

Sean McCarron toe-poked the hosts into the lead on 18 minutes when he finished into the bottom corner following a pass from Johnny Bonner that dissected the visiting defensive line.

Then, nine minutes later, Harps’ lead was doubled when Pat McCann was on hand to tuck into an empty net when Skinner dropped an innocuous free-kick from Lee Toland in a crowded penalty area.

thlone, well supported by vociferous followers, many of whom were clad with their sombreros as if they were at Honolulu and not Harps, were given a lifeline with three minutes of the first half left.

Josh Mailey bundled Gorman over and referee Simon Rodgers sent Ciaran Gallagher the wrong way from the penalty spot.

The hosts restored their two-goal lead on 64 minutes when Kevin McHugh tucked home a penalty when Lee Toland was impeded by substitute Graham Kelly.

Garbhan Coughlan scored a consolation goal in the second of two minutes of stoppage time with a well-taken header.

It brought further cheer from the visiting support, who were going to go home noisy regardless.

Harps were two points ahead of the midlanders when they last made the trip to the north-west in June but the starkest illustration of the fluctuating fortunes in the two clubs is the fact Athlone went into Friday’s encounter 28 points in front.

After the break, the Ballybofey side almost forced a third in the opening stages of the second half but Skinner stood up long enough to deny McHugh.

Then McCarron went close. McHugh’s 11th goal of the season then created that 3-1 lead.

Coughlan shinned over an effort of an instant reply at the other end and Gorman was guilty of passing up a glorious effort, steering over from in front of a yawning goal when Gallagher had saved his first effort.

Gorman, in the closing stages, went much closer he smashed the Harps crossbar from the edge of the penalty area but his Athlone’s work, as Harps, will be judged over the season and not the match.

It’s a season that will now conclude with Harps once more at the crossroads.

Sean McGowan will step in as caretaker manager for the journey to Galway. And on a weekend when Harps were so close to lining out at Finn Park in the FAI Cup semi-final, they’re on the hunt for a new manager once more.

Finn Harps: Ciaran Gallager; Marty Owens, Thomas McMonagle, Josh Mailey, Lee Toland; Michael Funston (Mark Forker 74), Pat McCann, Shaun McGowan, Jonny Bonner (Paul McVeigh 89); Kevin McHugh (Aaron O’Hagan 87) Sean McCarron.

Athlone Town: Paul Skinner; Roddy Collins, Conor McMahon, Aidan Collins, Sean Byrne; Mark Hughes, Garvan Broughall (Graham Kelly 46), Barry Clancy, Ian Sweeney; Philip Gorman, Enda Curran (Garbhan Coughlan 58).

Referee: Simon Rogers.