The Finn Harps team pictured with their mascots prior to Monday night's meeting with Cork City at Finn Park PICTURE: STEPHEN DOHERTY
On a night when Finn Harps held out for a valuable draw against Cork City, Sligo Rovers’ 5-1 hammering of UCD at the Showgrounds ensured it was a good night for the Donegal club on Monday night.
Finn Harps . . . 0
Cork City . . . . 0
It means the gap between Harps and UCD is now out to four points, although the Students still have three games less played.
But ahead of this Friday night’s meeting of the two relegation rivals in Dublin, suddenly the pressure is beginning to mount on the Belfield side.
For Harps, the picture is a lot brighter. They were far from at their best against Cork, but at this stage of the season, it’s all about results and this was another welcome point for Ollie Horgan’s men.
Cork, who won 4-3 when the sides served up seven goals at Finn Park earlier in the season, had their chances to win this game, but luckily for the home side, they were wasteful in front of goal.
This was Cork’s first game after their 4-1 defeat at home to Derry City on Friday night. And it was also their first match since new manager Frank Kelleher’s appointment was announced on Sunday.
Kelleher, who was a coach at Cobh Ramblers, wasn’t at the game at Finn Park and will take charge for the first time when Cork play Bohs this Friday night.
In Kelleher’s absence, John Cotter took charge of affairs for this game and he made four changes from the Derry game - the visitors without striker Graham Cummins who made the move to Shamrock Rovers over the weekend.
Harps found it difficult to find any real rhythm to their game during the early stages and it was Cork who enjoyed much more of the possession.
Ollie Horgan, who included Harry Ascroft and Niall Logue in place of Rafael Cretaro and Keith Cowan, went with Nathan Boyle as a lone striker. The Derryman, scorer of the two goals against Sligo on Friday night, was starved of supply as Cork enjoyed the better of things for much of the first half.
Daniel O’Reilly’s well timed challenge on Gearoid Morrissey denied the Cork midfielder a shot on goal as Cork threatened early on.
Harps’ main threat came from the clever runs of Caolan McAleer down the right but on the couple of occasions that he managed to get clear, the Cork defence was able to deal with the danger.
The best chance of a rather dull first half came the way of City on 34 minutes when after Morrissey’s free was headed back across goal, Gary Boylan shot wastefully over Mark Anthony McGinley’s bar.
Then right on the stroke of half time, and from another Morrissey free-kick, Harps twice failed to clear their lines allowing Cork’s Dan Casey to flick a header towards goal only for the ball to be scrambled clear.
Horgan replaced Ascroft with Mark Timlin for the second half and the change around saw Harps finally begin to enjoy some decent passages of play.
They also created their first notable effort on 53 minutes when following a penetrating run deep into the Cork half from Mark Coyle his pass set up McAleer on the edge of the box and he steered a well struck effort just past the post.
But Cork were always dangerous coming forward and they wasted another glorious chance to go in front on the hour. Sloppy defending from the home side saw Morrissey get the better of a hesitant Sam Todd and when the ball was teed up for Darragh Rainsford in front of goal, he screwed his shot up and over with the goal at his mercy.
It was a big moment in a game of few clear-cut openings.
Cork wouldn’t create as good an opportunity again as Harps held out for a point despite never really clicking into gear. That said, substitute Timlin almost won it when his wonderful drive from 25 yards sailed inches past the angle of crossbar and post.
Finn Harps: Mark Anthony McGinley, Jacob Borg, Mark Russell, Niall Logue, Sam Todd, Daniel O’Reilly, Caolan McAleer (Mikey Place 84), Harry Ascroft (Mark Timlin 45), Nathan Boyle, Gareth Harkin, Mark Coyle.
Cork City: Mark McNulty, Colm Horgan, Sean McLaughlin, Conor McCarthy, Dan Casey, Conor McCormack, Gary Boylan (Gary Comerford 66), Gearoid Morrissey, Darragh Rainsford (Karl Sheppard 83), Garry Buckley Ronan Hurley.
Referee: John McLaughlin.