Finn Harps director of football Felix Healy cut a disappointed figure when his team went down by the odd goal in five in an exciting Airtricity League Division One encounter at Flancare Park against Longford Town on Saturday.
Longford Town 3
Finn Harps 2
Harps went in a goal to the good following Keith Cowan’s third minute opener but fell behind in the second half following goals from a Mark Salmon penalty and a Don Cowan belter. Kevin McHugh managed to level before Salmon rounded Ciaran Gallagher to give Longford the lead again with 12 minutes remaining.
“Although we were 1-0 up at half-time it was the poorest we have played since Peter (Hutton) and I came here, “ Healy said. “We were not at the races. We improved a bit in the second half and should’ve had a second before they levelled from a penalty. People were complaining about the award of the penalty but I think it was right.
“Apart from that, though, the referee had a nightmare and I mean that for both sides. We traded a couple of wonder goals before they pipped us.”
Six years ago this month, a 1-0 loss in the Premier League signalled the end of Felix Healy’s managerial tenure at the Ballybofey club and the Harps director of football and manager Peter Hutton would’ve been disappointed to leave the midlands with nothing yesterday having been in front at the break.
Only three minutes had passed when Keith Cowan, who had recovered from a groin strain that forced him to miss the 6-0 win over Bonagee United in midweek, rose tallest to head past Paul Hunt from six yards following a ball into the area from Mark Forker.
Harps had plenty of the ball in the opening 45 minutes but in was Longford who came closest to getting on the scoresheet. Gallagher in the Harps goal made decent saves from Don Cowan and Craig Walsh, before the latter smashed the crossbar.
The second half took a while to settle but again Gallagher was called into the action, this time to deny Don Cowan in a one-on-one situation, while at the other end his namesake Keith Cowan stuck the crossbar following a punch from Hunt.
Three minutes before the hour-mark Longford levelled with a questionable penalty after Lee Roche went down in the box. Salmon, whose penalty rebound knocked Harps out of the FAI Cup last month didn’t need a second chance as he duly got his team back on terms. Harps, who had Stephen O’Donnell making his debut in this second spell at the club, almost when in front again when Aaron McElwee saw a curling shot saved well by Hunt.
However, whilst almost going in front, the north-westerners were soon forced to chase the game when Don Cowan ran from deep and held off a couple of challenges before blasting into the top corner on 62 minutes. The see-saw nature of the game continued when McHugh brought Harps back on terms again with an excellent individual goal three minutes later. Having broken from 30 yards the Harps skipper got the better of Hunt with a fine strike.
Both teams sensed a winner from there but it was to be the hosts who would grab it. Salmon wriggled his way through and took the ball around Gallagher to slot into the empty net. Harps pushed for a third but Longford, who saw Salmon dismissed late on for two yellows, held on for the home win.
Longford Town: Paul Hunt; Gary Cronin, Graham Dowling, Des Hope, Chris Deans; Cathal Brady, Jacques Morley (Alan McGreal 63), Mark Salmon, Craig Walsh; Don Cowan, Lee Roche (Austin Skelly 57).
Finn Harps: Ciaran Gallagher; Paddy McLaughlin (Martin Redmond 57), Aaron O’Hagan, Keith Cowan, Ciaran Coll; Mark Forker, Aaron McElwee, Thomas Bonner, Stephen O’Donnell; Kevin McHugh, Blaine Curtis.
Referee: Rob Rogers