Waterford all but end Harps’ play-off hopes

Waterford all but end Harps’ play-off hopes
Finn Harps manager Peter Huttons admits his side must lift their heads for Friday’s FAI Cup third round tie with Cobh Ramblers.

Finn Harps manager Peter Huttons admits his side must lift their heads for Friday’s FAI Cup third round tie with Cobh Ramblers.

The Ballybofey club really required a win on Friday against Waterford United to keep their faint play-off hopes flickering.

Ben Ryan scored an excellent opening goal on 25 minutes when he dived to glance Vinny Sullivan’s fine cross past Ciaran Gallagher in the Harps goal. Conor Meade then added a second goal on 51 from the penalty spot to seal the win.

Harps’ failing to win in seven successive matches over the summer will be the red mark circled by manager Hutton on the calendar when he reviews the campaign.

“We can’t fault our work ethic or endeavour, but it’s disappointing not to get anything out of the game,” he said afterwards.

“We deserved something but, as has been our Achilles heel, we didn’t take chances.

“The players can’t afford this disappointment to linger for too long. They have to dust themselves down and get on with it because it’s a massive week on all fronts for the club.”

After the opening goal, Harps pushed for an instant reprieve but it was again Furlong who came the closest to scoring as the half bore to a conclusion.

His effort was brilliantly improvised, volleying just wide from a ball over his shoulder from Sullivan.

But Waterford were still content to go in just the one up after a glaring missed opportunity from Paul McVeigh.

Using a sense of purpose, the Harps frontman enthusiastically disposed Conor Whittle on the Waterford byline and although the goal seemed to grow larger as McVeigh made an angle for himself, his shot was inches over Hyland’s crossbar.

An unmarked Kevin McHugh was waiting for a square ball but would’ve considered there would’ve been no chance had it not been for the industry of McVeigh.

“We were chasing the game. The chance at 1-0, Paul McVeigh’s chance, was a golden opportunity to get ourselves back into the game.

“To be fair to him, he worked extremely hard to get himself into the position, but he lacked a bit of a composure a couple of yards out with the goal at his mercy.”

Waterford doubled their advantage six minutes into the second half when Meade outfoxed Thomas McMonagle to win a clearcut penalty.

The former Cork City striker rolled past Gallagher, who dived the wrong way.

Harps’Pat McCann, making a first start for the suspended Mark Forker, brought a top drawer save from Craig Hyland with a shot destined for the top corner.

Hyland then saved low from a deflected Kevin McHugh shot and saved for as many times in as three minutes when Funston drove through a crowded area.

Dylan Mernagh then made a dramatic goal-saving challenge to deny Lee Toland a certain goal on 62 minutes as the ball broke to the Harps winger just outside the six-yard box. McMonagle then saw a header fall just wide.

But for all the half chances, it was Kevin O’Connor from the visitors that came closest to a third when he drew an instinctive save from Gallagher in stoppage time.

Harps concluded as if their season depended on it – because their season did depend on it. Waterford had that little bit of class to see them home. Their term is far from over.

Finn Harps: Ciaran Gallagher; James Doherty, Thomas McMonagle, Keith Cowan, Ciaran Coll; Michael Funston (Shane Buchanan 84), Shaun McGowan, Pat McCann (Johnny Bonner 72), Lee Toland (Matthew Harkin 78); Paul McVeigh, Kevin McHugh.

Waterford United: Craig Hyland; Conor Whittle, Gavin Kavanagh, Paddy Barrett, Dylan Mernagh; Vinny Sullivan, Ben Ryan, Kevin O’Connor, Philip Drogan (Francis Rockett 66); Conor Meade (Peter Higgins 84), Danny Furlong (Alan Quinlan 76).

Referee: Rob Harvey.