Cork City took a huge step towards securing their SSE Airtricity League Premier Division status for next season as they drew 0-0 with Finn Harps at Turner's Cross on Friday evening.
Mark McGinley’s second-half penalty save to deny Conor McCormack was enough to earn Harps a point but they remain seven points behind City with four games remaining while their rivals also have a game in hand.
The result sees Neale Fenn secure his first point in his fourth game in change but they are still without a win in front of their home fans since 10 May.
Ollie Horgan made three changes to his starting 11 which lost 3-1 to Sligo Rovers at the Showgrounds last Friday night as Josh Smith, Tony McNamee and Harry Ascroft replacing Raffaele Cretaro, Gareth Harkin and Keith Cowan.
Following a poor and uneventful opening 25 minutes, Harps finally had the game's first attempt at goal but Tony McNamee’s weak strike from distance was easily saved by City goalkeeper Tadgh Ryan.
Fenn also made three alterations to his side that was narrowly beaten by Dundalk in their last outing two weeks ago with Garry Buckley, Gearoid Morrissey and Karl Sheppard coming in for Ronan Hurley, Alec Byrne and Eoghan Stokes.
They had control of possession but they failed to truly threaten their opponent’s goal until the half an hour mark.
Geaorid Morrissey’s shot from the edge of the box was deflected by Mark Timlin into the path of Karl Sheppard but the attacker could only drag his shot wide of the bottom left corner from a great position.
The Leesider’s finished the half strongly and moments after Mark O’Sullivan sent his header from Conor McCormack’s cross just wide, centre back Conor McCarthy saw a strike from 30 yards sail harmlessly wide of the target.
The home side took that momentum into the second half and they were handed a glorious chance to finally ending the stalemate when they were awarded a penalty after Mark O’Sullivan was bundled over inside the area by Josh Smith as he tried to latch onto Shane Griffin’s pullback.
Conor McCormack took responsibility for the spot-kick and he drilled his effort straight down the middle allowing Harps keeper Mark McGinley to make the save with his feet.
Garry Buckley tried to net the opener with a bicycle kick but his effort was easily stopped by the visiting number one before Morrissey flashed a half volley from distance wide just past the hour.
City continued to look the more dangerous going forward and Conor McCarthy almost snatched his fifth goal of the season with 18th minutes remaining but the club’s top scorer could only turn his header wide of the bottom right corner.
Harps finally pushed forward in the closing stages as they knew they need a victory here if they were to have any realistic chance of avoiding relegation.
Defender Daniel O’Reilly twice went close to getting the winner late but after seeing his header drop narrowly wide, his thunderous strike from distance was brilliantly saved by Ryan as City clung on to the point.
Cork City: Tadgh Ryan; Colm Horgan, Conor McCarthy, Dan Casey, Shane Griffin; Conor McCormack, Gearoid Morrissey; Karl Sheppard (Joel Coustrain 68), Garry Buckley (Eoghan Stokes 79), Daire O’Connor; Mark O’Sullivan.
Finn Harps: Mark McGinley; Harry Ascroft, Josh Smith, Daniel O’Reilly; Jacob Borg, Ruairi Harkin (Raffael Cretaro 65), Sam Todd, Tony McNamee, Mark Russell; Mark Timlin (Gareth Harkin 65), Nathan Boyle (Niall Logue 92).
Referee: Rob Hennessy (Limerick).