Rovers defeat Harps in North-West Derby

Sligo Rovers made the short journey to Ballybofey on Easter Monday as we met Finn Harps for the second time this season.

The sides met back in March at The Showgrounds with Rovers winning 3-1 thanks to an Aidan Keena hat-trick.

Both sides were away from home on Friday night. The hosts coming back from a goal behind to draw 2-2 with Bohemians in Dalymount Park and Rovers defeated narrowly 2-1 against Dundalk at Oriel Park.

Liam Buckley made five changes to his starting eleven from that game in Dundalk with Greg Bolger, Lewis Banks, Garry Buckley, Aidan Keena and Will Fitzgerald all replaced in the team by Niall Morahan, Colm Horgan, Shane Blaney, David Cawley and Mark Byrne.

The Bit O’ Red started well and forced a number of early corners. The was good attacking play from Rovers particularly down the left with Mark Byrne, making his first start of the season, causing problems for the Harps defence along with Max Mata and David Cawley with Paddy Kirk also getting forward from left back.

On 18 minutes, the first real chance of the game fell to Cawley who forced Mark McGinley into a fine save with his feet after working space in the area. Just two minutes later Cawley was instrumental again as his perfect through ball found Byrne in behind but McGinley produced another big save to deny him. The ball fell to Mata in the box but he couldn’t quite get control of the ball and his shot was also saved by the Harps’ goalkeeper.

Rovers weren’t to be denied for long however and were rewarded on 25 minutes. Kirk’s ball found Mata who held it up well before turning and feeding it to the left to Byrne. His pass in behind the defence found the on rushing Cawley who dinked it over the Harps keeper toward goal. Regan Donelon, facing Rovers for the first time since his move to Harps, got back and cleared it off the line but his clearance hit Karl O’ Sullivan and fell into the net for the winger’s first goal for the club.

Referee Paul McLaughlin had his card out moments later. Bastien Hery was booked for a poor tackle on David Cawley and as both teams came together in the aftermath, Ethan Boyle and Shane Blaney were both carded.

Rovers went in 1-0 up at half-time and in truth it could well have been a couple more.

The second half started slowly with Harps having long range shots from Donelon and Mark Timlin sail over Ed McGinty’s crossbar early on. Max Mata was replaced by Jordan Hamilton on the hour for Rovers as Liam Buckley made his first change of the evening.

Harps pushed forward in the last quarter of an hour and forced some corners. McGinty stood tall for Rovers and claimed some high balls sent in from the Harps wingers with little in way of real chances being created.

One big chance did fall to Timlin however as a clearance was charged down by Harps and Mihaljevic got in down the right. His cross found Timlin but somehow a Rovers defender got back to block his effort and put it behind for another Harps corner.

Liam Buckley introduced Will Fitzgerald and Greg Bolger in the last ten minutes and Rovers saw out the game well with Harps pushing forward and McGinty again claiming some high balls to see us through and earn a vital three points.

Next up is Drogheda United on Saturday evening at The Showgrounds. The game kicks off at 7.45pm.