The Finn Harps team pictured before Friday night's game at The Showgrounds PICTURE: STEPHEN DOHERTY
Finn Harps were denied a first league win of the season when Ronan Coughlan scored a 90th minute penalty to earn Sligo Rovers a draw in Friday night’s North West derby.
Sligo Rovers . . . 1
Finn Harps . . . . 1
It was a dramatic end to a closely fought contest, and in the end, it was probably a fair result.
Sligo trailed at the break but they were much better in the second half and created a number of good chances before eventually forcing the equaliser right at the end.
Harps had gone in front through a Sean Boyd header on 40 minutes but they came under serious pressure in the closing stages and they were unable to hold out.
Coughlan converted from the spot after he was brought down in the box with Daniel O’Reilly shown a red card for his challenge.
For Harps, it was disappointing to concede so late on and they will be gutted not to have held out for a first league win of the season.
The Finn Harps squad included Mark Anthony McGinley. The former Donegal GAA goalkeeper, who stepped away from the county panel last month, was named on the bench. He has joined Harps as cover for Ciaran Gallagher who remains absent because of injury.
Elsewhere, Ollie Horgan made a few changes from the team that lost to St. Pat’s on Monday. Keith Cowan and Nathan Boyle both dropped to the bench with Daniel O’Reilly and Niall Logue included in their place.
Sligo, who came into this game on the back of a scoreless draw in Cork on Monday, included Johnny Dunleavy in defence. However, Donegal town’s Jack Keaney was on the bench and Kyle Callan-McFadden was absent due to injury.
Harps went with Sean Boyd as a loan front man and it was a ploy that worked well early on as the visitors enjoyed plenty of possession in the midfield sector. Caolan McAleer, playing wide on the right, was a constant threat while Tony McNamee, once again, was confident in possession and busy in midfield.
Sligo struggled to get into their stride and while Harps didn’t really create any notable chances, they looked the team most likely to score.
Time and again, they forced Sligo into errors,especially in and around their own area and the longer the first half went on, the more frustrated the home fans in the big North West derby crowd grew.
That said, it was Sligo who created the game’s first chance on 34 minutes when Romeo Parkes and Ronan Murray combined to slip Ronan Coughlan in on goal but from 12 yeards, the Sligo frontman blasted his shot wastefully over the bar.
Murray also had a decent chance as the home side almost took advantage of a rare piece of sloppy play from the visitors.
But towards the end of a first half in which Sligo had three players booked, Harps began to threaten again and they eventually forced the opener four minutes before the break.
Once again, Harps caused problems down their right and when John Kavanagh delivered a cross Boyd reacted brilliantly to send a looping header into the net over Beeney.
In the second half, Sligo were so much better and Romeo Parkes caused all sorts of problems for the visiting defence.
Twice Burke made saves in the visiting goal while Sligo also struck the post with a late header from a Donelan delivery.
Then right at the death, their pressure paid off when Coughlan was fouled in the area and he kept his nerve to hammer home the penalty.
Sligo Rovers: Mitchell Beeney, John Dunleavey, Dante Leverock, John Mahon, Lewis Banks, Sam Warde (Kris Twardek 75), Niall Morahan (Daryl Fordyce 55), David Cawley, Ronan Murray (Regan Donelon 46), Romeo Parkes, Ronan Coughlan.
Finn Harps: Peter Burke, John Kavanagh, Daniel O’Reilly, Sam Todd, Niall Logue, Tony McNamee (Jacob Borg 83 Caolan McAleer, Mark Coyle, Sean Boyd, Raff Cretaro (Nathan Boyle 70) , Mark Russell (Keith Cowan 66).
Referee: Ben Connolly.