League leaders Longford Town failed to beat Finn Harps for the third time this season after a drab goalless draw at Finn Park on Friday.
Finn Harps 0
Longford Town 0
Harps supporters can at least be content to see their team show much more resolve than in recent weeks and cut out the errors that have hampered them of late.
The first half was devoid of entertainment with neither goalkeeper getting called into action at all.
The closest either side came was when David O’Sullivan headed an early cross from William Tyrell wide of Ciaran Gallagher’s goal.
Longford have had problems seeing off the Ballybofey team in recent times with Peter Hutton’s team defeating the midlanders in both the previous meetings this season – 1-0 at home in March and the 3-2 away at Flancare Park in May.
But despite those good results, Harps’ recent form has been wretched with just one point picked up from the last five outings and that was in the demoralising 2-2 home draw with Cobh Ramblers seven nights’ beforehand when a two-goal lead was squandered.
Hutton made five changes from that team with Stephen O’Donnell making a first start in 15 months having recovered from a cruciate knee injury sustained in the opening weeks of last season. O’Donnell came in for top scorer Sean McCarron to play on the right of a 4-3-3 formation alongside Kevin McHugh and Gary Merritt, who replaced the hamstrung Michael Funston.
Keith Cowan, who scored in each of Harps’ last three outings, was suspended, while Thomas McMonagle missed out with a foot injury and they were replaced by Josh Mailey and Shaun McGowan. Johnny Bonner came in for Tommy Bonnar.
Harps began the second half positively with James Doherty breaking to the byline on the right and pulling back to McHugh 12 yards from goal.
However, the Harps captain opened his body too much and lamely sidefooted wide.
The visitors felt they were deserving of a penalty on 57 minutes when Shaw appeared to be taken down by Gallagher in the Harps penalty area.
However, the protestations came to nothing. O’Sullivan also put the ball into the Harps net but was ruled out for offside on 75 minutes.
Harps shaded the second half and substitute Michéal Doherty broke into space on the right but lifted over both Chris Bennion and the Longford crossbar.
The home team did improve marginally in an attacking sense and had a couple of opportunities that came to nothing from placedballs.
But the lack of goalmouth action continued despite Longford introducing the recently recruited Dean Ebbe from Shamrock Rovers in the final quarter of an hour.
A draw would’ve been of some consolation to both managers. It was Harps’ first clean sheet in six in the league and Longford keep their noses in front of neighbours Athlone, who drew 0-0 with Cobh. But all in all, it was far from a memorable match.
Finn Harps: Ciaran Gallagher; James Doherty, Aaron O’Hagan, Josh Mailey, Ciaran Coll; Shaun McGowan, Mark Forker (Thomas Bonnar 89), Johnny Bonner; Stephen O’Donnell (Michéal Doherty 61), Kevin McHugh, Gary Merritt.
Longford Town: Chris Bennion; Noel Haverty, Des Hope (Keith Gillespie 61), Corie Tracey, William Tyrell; David O’Neill, Rhys Gorman, Keith Quinn, Derek O’Brien; Gary Shaw (Dean Ebbe 76), David O’Sullivan.
Referee: Simon Rogers.