Nathan Boyle and Sam Todd in the thick of the action during Monday night's EA Sports League Cup tie in Ballybofey. Picture: Brian McDaid
Young Stephen Doherty marked his Finn Harps debut with the winning goal as the Donegal side saw off Sligo Rovers after extra-time in the EA Sports League Cup 2nd round at Finn Park on Monday night.
Finn Harps . . . 2
Sligo Rovers . . . 1
(after extra time)
Buncrana man Doherty struck in the early stages of the first period of extra time to cap a brilliant performance in the Harps midfield.
The goal saw Harps into the next round at the expense of a very strong Sligo side who simply failed to sparkle.
And given that this Harps team included a number of players who haven’t featured in the Premier Division this season, this was a hugely impressive result.
Sligo had gone with a strong and experienced starting eleven which included nine of the side that played in their 2-1 league win in Ballybofey earlier in the season.
Harps, fresh from a 4-0 defeat in Waterford on Friday night, showed several changes. Michael Gallagher (right back) and Stephen Doherty (midfield) made their first team debuts while Mark Russell, Tony McNamee, Mikey Place and keeper Peter Burke were all included.
Despite the many changes, it was the home side who were quickest out of the blocks and Doherty flashed a shot just wide of the target and Mark Russell also fired an effort on goal.
The watching Ollie Horgan - who was serving the third of a three-game touchline ban - will have been happy with the performance of his team in that first half. Doherty and Gallagher both did well on their first appearances while Tony McNamee and Jacob Borg enjoyed a fair degree of dominance in the middle of the park.
And it was for that reason that Sligo found it difficult to get their game going and while Parkes was a willing target man, the visitors failed to muster an effort on goal in the first 45 minutes.
Mark Coyle, sent off in Waterford on Friday night, replaced Borg in midfield for the second half and again the Donegal men were the brighter from the off.
Doherty was unlucky to fire into the side netting after latching onto Mikey Place’s through ball following excellent approach work from Harps.
In a rare Sligo attack, Doherty got in a timely challenge as the visitors almost worked an opening in front of goal.
Both teams made further changes as the second half progressed with young Liam Walsh introduced to the Harps front-line in place of Nathan Boyle.
Ramelton’s Kyle Callan McFadden came off the bench for the visitors but still the young Harps team continued to make life difficult for their neighbours.
McNamee won a corner and took it himself and the set-piece almost ;led to the opener when Michael Gallagher’s superbly struck volley sailed just wide of the post.
Then on 72 minutes, Walsh was denied by a fine close range stop from Luke McNicholas after being presented with a great chance following a Mark Russell free.
Walsh was in again on 78, this time pouncing on a sloppy Sligo pass on the edge of their own box, but despite creating room for a shot, the substitute blasted his effort over the bar.
But with only four minutes left on the watch, Harps finally made the breakthrough when following a long throw-in by McNamee the ball fell to Mark Coyle whose spectacular volley flew in from 20 yards.
However, within a minute, Sligo won a free which was delivered by Jack Keaney and despite claims of handball, Harps failed to deal with the danger and Dante Leverock thumped the loose ball home.
Then in a frantic finish Sligo forced another corner which ended with a goalbound shot from Callan McFadden striking Sam Todd on the line.
Four minutes into extra time, Harps regained the lead. Not for the first time, Sligo couldn’t deal with McNamee’s long throw into the area and when Mark Russell found room in a crowded area, he drove the ball home.
And while had chances to score a third, Doherty’s goal was enough to give them what was a welcome first victory of the campaign.
Finn Harps: Peter Burke, Michael Gallagher, Mark Russell, Colm Deasy (Keith Cowan 100), Sam Todd, Nathan Logue, Jacob Borg (Mark Coyle 46), Tony McNamee, Nathan Boyle (Liam Walsh 56), Mikey Place (Caolan McAleer 109), Stephen Doherty.
Sligo Rovers: Luke McNicholas, Niall Morahan, Lewis Banks, John Mahon, Dante Leverock, Jack Keaney, David Cawley (Kyle Callan McFadden 60), Kris Twardek, John Russell (Daryl Fordyce 56), Romeo Parkes, Ronan Murray (Liam Kerrigan 65).
Referee: Michael Connolly.