Action from Finn Park on Monday night where Drogheda United got the better of Harps. Photo: Stephen Doherty.
Two sides already preparing for life back in the First Division served up a lively end-of-season encounter at Finn Park on Monday night.
Finn Harps . . . 2
Drogheda Utd. . . 3
In the end, it was Drogheda who took the points, coming from a goal down to win a game in the Premier for the first time since beating Harps at the same venue six months ago.
Their win was built on a gutsy display against a Harps side who would rue a number of missed chances with the game at 1-0.
Drogheda’s three goals all came in the second half, and at least two of them were avoidable, coming from defensive errors which have been such a feature of Harps’ problems of late.
This meeting of the bottom two, both of whom have already been relegated from the Premier Division, didn’t do much to catch the imagination of the paying public. In front of the smallest home attendance for some time, the game was very open, with no end of goalmouth incidents.
Drogheda were seeking to end a winless run that stretched all the way back to April 21st when they were impressive in beating Harps 2-0 in Ballybofey.
But they found themselves behind with just less than a minute gone on the watch when after picking up possession from a throw-in, Caolan McAleer’s speculative effort from 25 yards looped in over keeper Stephen McGuinness.
The Drogheda netminder produced a smart save soon after to deny McAleer a second as Harps continued to press.
But troubled Drogheda played some decent football in an evenly contested first half and after saving from a Sean Russell free-kick, Ciaran Gallagher got down well to his right to deny Stephen Meaney an equaliser on 22 minutes.
Harps however, had chances of their own at the other end. Ibrahim Keita worked a decent opening on the edge of the box and his powerful effort drew a good save from McGuinness.
McAleer will feel he should have done better soon after when pouncing on a sloppy defensive header. However, his attempted lob over the stranded keeper dropped just over the bar.
And there were strong appeals for a penalty waved away too. The Harps bench were incensed by the decision of match referee Thomas Connolly not to penalise a Drogheda defender for what did appear to be a pull on Damien McNulty inside the box.
Harps, with McAleer and Gareth Harkin particularly prominent, continued to carry the greater threat after half time. Twice within a minute, Danny Morrissey had great chances to score. His first effort was saved by McGuinness and seconds later, he was in again, only to see his effort strike the crossbar.
But on the hour, Drogheda plundered an equaliser when after some poor decision-making involving Ciaran Coll and Ciaran Gallagher, the ball ran loose to Chris Mulhall who cleverly steered the ball over the retreating Harps keeper and into the net.
Harps sought a response and almost regained the lead but Harkin’s goalbound strike on 67 minutes was brilliantly turned over his bar by McGuinness.
It was a big moment in the game. Within five minutes, Drogheda substitute, Thomas Byrne, made an immediate impact, finding space on the left before steering the ball into the far corner for a wonderful goal.
The third arrived on 82 minutes and again big questions could be asked of the Harps defence. Gallagher failed to cut out a delivery and when Mark Doyle turned the ball back across goal, Stephen Meaney fired it home.
McAleer scored his second of the night on 90 minutes, showing his class with a wonderful strike from the edge of the area.
But it proved little consolation on another frustrating night for Harps and their supporters.
Finn Harps: Ciaran Gallagher, Damien McNulty (Shane Blaney 71), Ciaran Coll, Killian Cantwell, Packie Mailey, Tommy McBride (Sean Houston 67), Mark Timlin (BJ Banda 76), Gareth Harkin, Danny Morrissey, Ibrahim Keita, Caolan McAleer.
Drogheda United: Stephen McGuinness, Shane Elworthy, Conor Kane, Stephen Dunne, Kevin Farragher, Chris Mulhall, Sean Russell (Thomas Byrne 68), Sean Brennan (Jamie Hollywood 71), Ryan McEvoy, Stephen Meaney (Jack Bailey 82), Mark Doyle.
Referee: Thomas Connolly.