The Finn Harps team pictured before Saturday night's game against Dundalk at Finn Park PICTURE: STEPHEN DOHERTY
A much changed Finn Harps side fell to another defeat as leaders Dundalk eased to the three points at Finn Park on Saturday night.
Finn Harps . . . 0
Dundalk . . .3
Two goals just before half time from Michael Duffy and the excellent John Mountney put Dundalk on the road to the win before Brian Garland scored a third just after the hour.
Unusually all three Dundalk goals were headed efforts on a night when the gulf in quality was all too evident.
The win, coupled with the result at Tallaght Stadium where Shamrock Rovers were held to a 2-2 draw by Derry City, means Dundalk have opened up a five point lead at the top of the table.
At the other end, the picture remains gloomy for Ollie Horgan’s side who’ve now lost four league games on the bounce. They remain level on points with UCD but have a far inferior goal difference.
Former Donegal goalkeeper Mark Anthony McGinley came in for his league debut as Ollie Horgan rang the changes after his side’s 5-3 loss to Bohs last weekend.
McGinley was preferred to Peter Burke while there were recalls for Mark Russell and Liam Walsh. Horgan also welcomed Mark Coyle back from suspension as Caolan McAleer and Sean Boyd lost out because of bans.
Dundalk, enjoying such a good run of form, went into this game on the back of a 4-0 win over Sligo Rovers. Their starting eleven saw two changes, both in defence, where Dane Massey replaced Dean Jarvis and Brian Gartland came in for Sean Hoare.
Dundalk, not surprisingly, were quickly on the front foot and within the space of two minutes, they created the game’s first opening - Hoban crossing for Michael Duffy but he was unable to find the target from a difficult angle.
Harps, with Raff Cretaro deployed as a lone frontman and Mikey Place and Liam Walsh dropping back into a four man midfield, had an early opportunity of their own. Mark Russell’s free-kick was headed goalwards by Daniel O’Reilly and Brian Gartland had to head clear from under his own crossbar.
Harps’ biggest threat in the first half came from set-pieces, but to be fair, their hard working approach frustrated the league leaders.
But that was until the 31st minute when Dundalk’s patience paid off with a simply worked opening goal. John Mountney was sent clear wide on the right and he waited before delivering a perfect cross which was headed in by the unmarked Duffy.
After that, Dundalk looked comfortable and with McEleney and Chris Shields dominant in midfield, they were well on top.
Harps almost caught them out when Mark Russell worked an opening on the edge of the box only for his curling effort to drift over the bar.
But just before half time, the visitors pounced for the killer second - Mountney heading in McEleney’s cross from the left to double their lead just before half time.
With Shamrock Rovers held to a 2-2 draw by Derry City in the early kick-off at Tallaght Stadium, Dundalk knew that a win would open up a five point lead at the top of the table.
It was just a case of seeing the game out in the second half, and they did so with aplomb.
That said, Harps continued to ask questions when they could. Daniel O’Reilly forced Gary Rogers into a save from a free-kick and the Dundalk keeper produced a fine stop to deny Mark Coyle after the Harps midfielder worked a brilliant opening with Cretaro.
But after McGinley made a brilliant reaction stop to keep out Duffy’s header, Dundalk forced a third on 61 minutes. A corner from the right from Jordan Flores found the towering Brian Gartland and his well placed header snuck in at the far post.
Mikey Place should have pulled one back for the home side after missing from in front of goal on 70 minutes. Then right at the death, Rogers made a finger-tip save to keep out Daniel O’Reilly’s dipping effort as Harps sought some late consolation.
Finn Harps: Mark Anthony McGinley, Jacob Borg, Daniel O’Reilly, Keith Cowan, Niall Logue (Gareth Harkin 70), Sam Todd, Mark Coyle, Liam Walsh (Mark Timlin 59), Mikey Place, Raff Cretaro (Nathan Boyle 61), Mark Russell.
Dundalk: Gary Rogers, Sean Gannon, Dane Massey, Brian Gartland, Daniel Cleary, Chris Shields (Dylan Hand 88), Jordan Flores, John Mountney (Daniel Kelly 71), Patrick Hoban, Patrick McEleney, Michael Duffy (Georgie Kelly 65).
Referee: Damien McGrath.