Finn Harps earned a useful point on Friday night as they returned from the RSC in Waterford with a share of the spoils following a 1-1 draw.
Waterford United 1
Finn Harps 1
Waterford had been on a fine winning streak, posting eight successive wins in all competitions – a run that started with a 1-0 victory against Harps in Ballybofey in May when Ben Ryan scored the only goal of the game.
On Friday, though, it was the team managed by Peter Hutton that took the lead when Matt Harkin opened the scoring on 25 minutes, only for Peter White to level just five minutes later. The Waterford goalscorer was sent off late in the day, while Aaron O’Hagan had been dismissed on 68 minutes after picking up a second yellow card.
After not drawing a league encounter for 16 outings, Harps have now drawn three on the spin following last weekend’s 3-3 against Wexford Youths at Finn Park and the 1-1 at Athlone Town beforehand.
Friday’s game was scrappy in places but it was the away side that came closest to opening the scoring on 20 minutes when Ciaran Coll found Shaun McGowan with a cross from the left wing but the midfielder just couldn’t get the ball under control.
Three minutes afterwards, however, Harps got their noses in front when Harkin powerfully headed past Packie Holden in the Waterford goal when the centre was provided by Paul McVeigh.
With three wins and five losses from their previous nine road trips this term, Harps’ fortunes away from home this term has been patchy but they had enjoyed a decent 2-0 win in the south east the last time they faced Waterford at the RSC.
That game, in March, was a bizarre one as goalkeeper Ciaran Gallagher was taken off with a fractured skull and his replacement, 16-year-old Shaun Patton, saved a penalty from Gary Dempsey.
On Friday, though, Gallagher was picking the ball from his net on 28 minutes when Peter Keegan rose unchallenged to head past the Harps netminder following Dempsey’s corner.
Chances were still few and far between and after Gary Merritt tested Holden, Harps were reduced to 10 men when O’Hagan was booked for a second time after fouling Keegan on the edge of the penalty area.
Dempsey tested Gallagher before Paul Phelan’s late chance of a winner for Waterford was blocked by a swarm of Harps players on 88 minutes.
Burns then picked up his second yellow following an off-the-ball offence to even things up in terms of numbers three minutes into stoppage time. On the scoreboard too, it finished honours even.
Waterford United: Packie Holden; Stephen Mulcahy, Craig Burns, Seamus Long, John Frost; Paul Carey (Aidan McGrath 87), Peter Higgins (Jack Doherty 62), Peter White, Paul Phelan; Gary Dempsey, Peter Keegan (Willie John Kiely 79).
Finn Harps: Ciaran Gallagher; James Doherty, Ciaran Coll, Tommy McMonagle, Keith Cowan, Aaron O’Hagan, Shaun McGowan, Gary Merritt (Adam Clarke 67), Paul McVeigh, Kevin McHugh, Matt Harkin.
Referee: Jim McKell (Tipperary).