Sean Houston, on the mark for Harps against Bray
Harps’ hopes of survival received a timely shot in the arm on Friday night when they got the better of in-form Bray Wanderers at Finn Park.
Finn Harps 2
Bray Wanderers 1
With Wexford Youths well beaten by St. Patrick’s Athletic at Richmond Park, it means Harps hold an eight point advantage over second-from-bottom Wexford with only four games left to play.
For Harps, this was a superb win against a Bray side who were unbeaten in 13 games before this one. Their two goals came from former Bray man, Sean Houston who capped a fine performance with goals in each half.
Ollie Horgan’s side, clearly buoyed by their impressive result in Sligo mid-week, produced their best display for some time.
But leading 2-0 in the closing stages, they made life difficult for themselves when they conceded a goal 16 minutes from the finish - substitute Dean Kelly converting from close in. Bray though, never really looked like forcing a second and Harps dug deep to hold on for a vital win.
They’d started well and didn’t take too long to make the breakthrough. Houston, who had such a fine game in midfield, got on the end of an Adam Hanlon free kick to head past keeper, Peter Cherrie.
Houston was denied a second a minute later when Cherrie managed to save his snap-shot from inside the box.
The keeper also saved from Ryan Curran as Harps continued to press.
Bray however, also carried a threat when coming forward and they almost drew level when Hugh Douglas saw his header from a corner brilliantly tipped over by Ciaran Gallagher.
The Co. Wicklow men were the form team in the league going into this one and they played with confidence and purpose. But it was Harps who created the better chances and right on the stroke of half-time, Barry Molloy almost made it 2-0 when he was the latest Harps man to see a goalbound effort saved by Cherrie.
In the early stages of the second half, Cherrie could only watch as Curran’s looping effort deflected off the crossbar and over.
But the second duly arrived on 67 when from a long throw-in, Michael Funston’s delivery was flicked on by Keith Cowan and Houston was well placed to turn the ball in past Cherrie.
Harps looked comfortable until out of nothing, Bray drew level through Kelly.
The visitors pressed for a second and had strong appeals for a penalty saved away.
Yet despite five minutes of injury time, Harps held out for what will surely prove a vital win.
Finn Harps: Ciaran Gallagher, Ethan Boyle, Ciaran Coll, Keith Cowan, Damian McNulty, Gareth Harkin, Michael Funston (Josh Mailey 68), Barry Molloy, Ryan Curran (BJ Banda 92), Sean Houston, Adam Hanlon (Tony McNamee 83).
Bray Wanderers: Peter Cherrie, Hugh Douglas, Kevin Lynch, Conor Kenna, Tim Clancy, Darragh Noone (Chris Lyons 83), John Sullivan, Mark Salmon (Ryan Brennan 60), Ger Pender (Dean Kelly 60), Dylan Connolly, Karl Moore.
Referee: Paul McLaughlin.