Report: Finn Harps 3-2 Rovers

Sligo Rovers travelled to Finn Park on Friday night in The SSE Airtricity League for a North-West Derby against Finn Harps.

Harps started the game bottom of the table, with Rovers sitting in fifth spot, four points behind St Patrick’s Athletic.

Manager John Russell was without defenders Garry Buckley and Colm Horgan but welcomed back Aidan Keena in attack which came as a welcome boost for Rovers.

There was just one change from the team from the previous game with St. Pats last Sunday, with Frank Liivak dropping to the bench and Karl O’ Sullivan coming into the team in his place, to face his former club.

Rovers started brightly and were unlucky not to be awarded a penalty in the opening moments. O’ Sullivan crossed from the right and Max Mata poked the ball toward goal only to be denied by the arm of a Harps’ defender but referee Rob Hennessy didn’t give it and play continued.

The home side picked up some early bookings with Ryan Ryan and Ryan Connolly both yellow carded inside the opening ten minutes before manager Ollie Horgan was dismissed from the line for dissent.

Soon after however, Harps took the lead. The ball broke to Barry McNamee around thirty yards out from goal and he set himself and unleashed an unstoppable effort into the far top corner via the upright past Luke McNicholas.

The Bit O’ Red tried to get back into the game and had half chances through O’ Sullivan, Will Fitzgerald and Aidan Keena but it was the hosts who doubled their lead on 37 minutes when Gary Boylan’s corner was headed to the net by Ryan Rainey from close range.

The sides went in at the break with Harps two goals to the good and Rovers with a mountain to climb but the deficit was halved inside the opening two minutes of the second half. Harps had a long throw in on the right in line with the edge of Rovers’ penalty area. Ethan Boyle’s throw was cleared and Karl O’ Sullivan broke forward at pace. He reached half way and slid the ball across to Aidan Keena who ran toward goal. Keena found himself inside the box one on one with James McKeown and cooly lifted the ball over the advancing goalkeeper to score.

It was all Rovers at this point and it looked as if they would get back on level terms during the second half with plenty of possession and half chances but the game turned again on 67 minutes. Ryan Rainey had the ball inside the Rovers’ area and Will Fitzgerald was deemed to have fouled him and referee Hennessy pointed to the spot. Replays suggest the decision was extremely harsh but Harps extended their lead once again through Ryan Connolly from the spot.

John Russell introduced Frank Liivak for Will Fitzgerald soon after and the Estonian won his side a penalty on 81 minutes after being fouled just inside the box by Ethan Boyle. Aidan Keena smashed the penalty home to make it an interesting last ten minutes or so.

Sub Kailin Barlow, brought on for Lewis Banks found himself free at the back post but he couldn’t find the net as his header was straight at McKeown.

Shane Blaney went close with a free kick from the edge of the area and Keena went close once again but it wasn’t to be and Harps ran out 3-2 winners, a win which saw them come off the bottom of the table after their close rivals UCD were beaten by St Pat’s, a result which didn’t suit Rovers either.

Next up is a home game against second placed Dundalk at The Showgrounds next Monday night at 7.45pm (August 29th)