Finn Harps director of football Felix Healy seeks an obvious improvement against Athlone Town on Saturday after he declared last weekend’s defeat at the hands of Limerick FC was “one of the worst matches” he has ever seen.
Healy’s team lost out by two goals to one against the side managed by Pat Scully. Marc Brolly was the Harps goalscorer either side of Shane Tracy’s ninth minute opener and former Cork City and Hartlepool United striker Denis Behan’s fantastic winner direct from a free-kick on the hour-mark.
“There was no football played in the game whatsoever,” Healy said yesterday. “Limerick are a tough team and we just got sucked in. I didn’t think much of it but they had a bit more than us. It took a brilliant free-kick to win it but we didn’t even try and pass it. It was Wimbledon FC at its greatest.”
The words of Healy signify a backward step in his tenure, although the former Derry City manager has openly stated he sees the conclusion of this term as preparation for next. Harps currently sit third from bottom on the Airtricity League First Division, four points adrift of Saturday’s opponents.
Working alongside player-manager Peter Hutton, who was forced the leave the field last weekend a minute before half-time with a hamstring complaint, Healy has seen Harps improve, defensively at least, since taking over in May.
Having made five alterations against Limerick from the side that defeated Mervue United by two goals to one the previous Saturday, Healy and Hutton are expected to ring the changes again at the weekend. Gary Curran, who signed from Galway United last month, picked up another knock no his ankle playing in a competition for Harps against Castlederg on Tuesday in a 2-1 loss.
Hutton will be out for two to three weeks with his hamstring complaint and Keith Cowan is suspended. Aaron McElwee has now parted company with the club and will start a soccer scholarship in North America later this month.
This is the third meeting of Harps and Athlone this term. The side managed by Mike Kerley won the first by a goal to nil when Paul Danagher was the scorer of the solitary goal when he met Kevin Williamson’s delightful corner with an emphatic diving header. In the return at Finn Park in May, patience proved to be a virtue. Harps won their first league game of the campaign at the 12th attempt with a solitary Kevin McHugh goal.
Athlone, who have a fully fit squad to choose from, have lost three on the bounce as their promising start to the season has long since extinguished. They were hammered 5-1 at Waterford United last time out, a result that followed successive 1-0 losses to Monaghan United and Limerick.
Harps, who have won four and lost four of their last eight, will continue to experiment. Healy has admitted it is no secret some of the players he currently has at his disposal in Ballybofey are playing for their futures.
“We are always looking for reaction, whether at training or in a match and that’s no different this week,” he said. “The guys know they have to produce performances week-in and week-out and hopefully the ball will spend a little more time on the ground this weekend in Athlone than it did last week at Finn Park.”