Finn Harps remain unbeaten in the Airtricity League First Division campaign but Friday night’s scoreless draw with Wexford Youths was a damp squib.
Finn Harps 0
Wexford Youths 0
The point means Peter Hutton’s team are still undefeated this term but the Harps manager would not have been happy with his side’s performance. In the week leading up to the match the Derry native said he was reasonably content with the progress to date but hoped to see his team perform for the 90 minutes rather than in fits and starts. They didn’t even manage that on Friday.
It was the first time this season Harps failed to score and the first time their opponents from the south-east had kept their sheets clean. After the drabbest of first halves, it took six minutes of the second before either goalkeeper to make a save for the first time and even at that, Shane Nolan’s effort for the guests sailed harmlessly into the hands of Ciaran Gallagher.
Fourteen minutes later, the Harps goalkeeper made a vital save, as, from by far the best chance of the match, Glen Hawe beat the offside trap following Nolan’s picking of the lock but Gallagher saved in the one-on-one with his feet.
Harps created two late chances, both of which fell to Kevin McHugh. His first was a free-kick palmed over the crossbar by Graham Doyle and then Wexford goalkeeper saved spectacularly from the Harps talisman with just seven minutes left. Thomas McBride drove just over as stoppage time started but it was a shot that was always increasing in height.
Wexford have shown the rough with the smooth this term already. A 5-0 opening day loss against Cobh Ramblers and a 2-0 defeat against Athlone Town acted as the prelude for successive victories over Salthill Devon and then Waterford United.
There were defensive improvements for the team managed by Shane Keegan, of course, but the first half was a poor spectacle. With Wexford content to sit in and let their front pairing of Joey Mulcahy and Nolan essentially forage for themselves, there were few passages of promising play.
The visitors, though, couldn’t be held solely culpable for the scant level of entertainment on view as Harps failed to produce anything like the standard that saw them go four unbeaten since the start of the season.
There were few opportunities. The best of them came on 34 minutes when an unmarked Mulcahy prodded a quickly-taken free-kick from Shaun Corcoran wide of the near post on 34 minutes with the Harps defence not alive to the move.
At the other end, Doyle, the visiting goalkeeper, hadn’t a single shot to contend with. A Michael Funston drive flew off into the ever chilling night air when Paul McVeigh played the ball wide before McHugh got none of the intended purchase on an attempted overhead kick and the ball squirmed wide.
In the latter stages of the half, another inkling of an opportunity came Harps way but more by accident than design as, following a deep free in from Marc Brolly, Damien McNulty bundled the ball back into a crowded area but there were no takers in blue.
Harps made one change from the team that came from two down to draw 2-2 at Fahy’s Field against Mervue United seven nights’ beforehand with McVeigh earning his first start of the season. The Portsalon native came in for three-goal Sean McCarron, who suffered a torn calf in Galway last week.
Shaun McGowan had gone over on his ankle in that same match but was declared fit to play and made his 202nd club appearance in the process. However, Hutton was forced into an early change when Thomas McMonagle hobbled off on 14 minutes to be replaced by James Doherty.
Wexford have been prickly opponents for Harps down the years. In their first year as a league club, in 2007, Mick Wallace’s team grabbed their first ever senior win of their existence in Ballybofey.
Then, in Hutton’s first match in charge in May 2011, Conor Sinnott scored the only goal of the game for the visitors. Last season, Wexford were the only side in the First Division Harps failed to beat, drawing two and losing two.
That awkwardness for the Ballybofey club was set to continue although there was an increase in intensity later on. McHugh tested Doyle twice late on but all in all the home side didn’t do enough to build on their competent opening to the campaign and few could really say that the draw wasn’t a fair reflection.
Finn Harps: Ciaran Gallagher; Damien McNulty, Thomas McMonagle (James Doherty 14), Keith Cowan, Matthew Crossan; Michael Funston (Thomas Bonner 84), Shaun McGowan, Thomas McBride, Marc Brolly (Michéal Doherty 80); Kevin McHugh, Paul McVeigh.
Wexford Youths: Graham Doyle; Jimmy Dermody, Gary Delaney, Jamie Carr, Shaun Corcoran; Dean Broaders, Thomas Croke, Eric Molloy, Glen Hawe (Caolan O’Gorman 80); Joey Mulcahy, Shane Nolan (Darrell Power 87).
Referee: Adriano Reale.