Shelbourne 2 – 0 Finn Harps
Match Report courtesy of extratime.ie
TWO set pieces converted by Gareth Coughlan and Keith Quinn were enough to send Shelbourne top of the First Division on Friday evening as they saw off Finn Harps at Tolka Park.
A calm Drumcondra evening greeted the two teams in this top of the table clash that was played on an improved Tolka Park since Shels’ last home game against Waterford two weeks ago.
Only goal difference separated the two sides going into this game with Harps’ goal tally already looking strong thanks to 5-0 and 3-0 wins over Cobh and Shamrock Rovers ‘B’ respectively.
A lively opening 15 minutes saw chances for both sides as first Josh Mailey curled a long distance effort inches wide of Greg Murray’s goal before Adam O’Connor’s header at the other end was well saved by Conor Winn.
Shels were beginning to dominate the possession stakes and eventually made it pay after 22 minutes.
Making his first league start for Shels this season Gareth Coughlan was allowed to run at the Finn Harps defence before being hacked down by Packie Mailey 20 yards from goal. Unfortunately for Mailey he was made to pay for his mistake immediately as Coughlan stepped up and put the ball into the top corner to give the Dublin side the lead.
The visitors were struggling to create chances for an equaliser but almost got themselves back in the game on 36 minutes when only a point blank block from Lee Desmond stopped Ciaran Coll’s close range shot from finding the net.
Minutes before half-time Harps missed a golden opportunity to equalise after a sustained spell of pressure. Somewhere in the middle of a melee in the Shels box Desmond brought down Damien McNulty forcing the referee to point to the penalty spot.
Michael Funston stepped forward to take the spot-kick but was denied by the feet of Murray and the ball was scrambled clear from the Shels goal line.
As the second half kicked off the rain began to fall, dampening the surface and allowing both teams to slide the ball around. It was Harps who started the second half the better team as they went in search of an equaliser. Two long range efforts were supplemented by a Keith Cowan header that bounced narrowly wide.
Just after the hour mark it was Shels who came close to netting the second of the game when Coughlan’s long range shot from the left wing almost caught Winn unawares but the Harps net-minder did well to parry it out.
From the follow-up Dylan Connolly flashed a ball across goal that only needed to slightest of touches to direct it into the back of the net.
The young winger who has impressed already this season almost fashioned a second for the home side with just 18 minutes remaining when he picked out Coughlan on the penalty spot but the former Dundalk man saw his shot crash off the underside of the crossbar and bounce out.
Minutes later he almost turned provider when his free-kick from the left wing was poked just wide of the mark by Conor Murphy.
Shels were standing resolute despite the expected pressure from Harps as they pushed for a late equaliser. The visitors didn’t help their quest however as Josh Mailey saw red for a dangerous tackle on Willo McDonagh as the clock ticked into added time.
Although Harps did push for an equaliser in the final minutes they failed to create anything meaningful and saw the deficit doubled with seconds to go after Keith Cowan brought down Connolly in the box allowing Keith Quinn to convert the penalty for Shels and send them top of the table.
Shelbourne: Greg Murray; Brian Gannon, Adam O’Connor, Lee Desmond, Philip Hand; Dylan Connolly, Willo McDonagh, Keith Quinn, Gareth Coughlan (Darren Tinnelly, 91), Jordan Keegan; Conor Murphy (Lee Murtagh, 76).
Subs not used: Nathan Murphy; Simon Dixon, Michael Duffy, Stephen McDonnell, Jake Donnelly.
Booked: Dylan Connolly (42), Willo McDonagh (60), Lee Murtagh (94).
Sent off: None.
Finn Harps: Conor Winn; James Doherty, Keith Cowan, Packie Mailey, Damien McNulty, Ciaran Coll; Michael Funston, Josh Mailey, Thomas Bonnar, Pat McCann; Carel Tiofack (Paul McVeigh, 64).
Subs not used: Shaun Patton; Johnny Bonnar, Graham Fisher, Mark Forker, Gareth Harkin.
Booked: Thomas Bonnar (59), Damien McNulty (60).
Sent off: Josh Mailey (90).
Referee: Andrew Mullally.
Extratime.ie Man of the Match: Gareth Coughlan.