A late Ryan Connolly penalty gave Finn Harps a narrow victory over St Patrick’s Athletic in their bid to avoid the relegation play-off in the SSE Airtricity League Premier Division.
Stephen O’Donnell’s visitors had Luke McNally then Georgie Kelly to thank for getting them back on terms at 2-2 after early goals from Adam Foley and Stephen Folan had given the hosts an early two-goal lead on a mucky night in Ballybofey.
However, 16 minutes from time Connolly edged Harps back in front and they survived to post only their second home win of the season when it mattered most.
Their 2-0 victory against Bohemians on Saturday night came courtesy of a Mark Russell double and as well as relegating Cork City, it also handed Shamrock Rovers the league title.
Ollie Horgan's team began tonight’s match five points behind Derry City, St Pat’s and Shelbourne still with a mathematical chance of reaching the safe haven of eighth place.
Foley managed to nip possession to get into the area as early as the third minute to score his first Harps goal and gave his team the lead.
That lead was doubled on 11 minutes when Folan tucked home from close range after Brendan Clarke had saved well from David Webster.
Harps’ two-goal lead was short-lived as, within a minute, St Pat’s had pulled a goal back when McNally was on hand to steer past Mark Anthony McGinley after the Harps netminder had missed an attempted punch on Robbie Benson’s corner.
On 35 minutes, Harps almost had a third when the ball was worked out to the left to Mark Russell, whose rasping drive was touched onto the post by Clarke. Mark Coyle also drew a fantastic save from the visiting goalkeeper.
Folan took one for the team with a brave block to keep a McNally shot from hitting the target to ensure Harps were 2-1 up at the break.
Eight minutes into the second half, it was 2-2 when Kelly headed home a cross from Benson.
Folan and Foley, the two Harps goalscorers, combined 20 minutes from time with the striker failing to keep down a centre in front of a yawning goal. It was a huge chance.
On 72 minutes, Connolly wasn’t for passing up his opportunity from the penalty spot, when he blasted down the middle to put his team back in front following a foul by Rory Feely on Harps substitute Raphaelle Cretaro.
Six minutes from time, Connolly might’ve made the points safe when he got away on the break from a Cretaro pass, only for Clarke to make a crucial save.
In injury time, with St Pat’s pressing but Harps breaking again, Connolly broke again and this time rounded Clarke only to have no angle to work with and his squared ball was cleared off the toes of Adrian Delap by McNally’s sliding challenge.
Finn Harps: Mark Anthony McGinley; Shane McEleney (Adrian Delap 83), Kosovar Sadiki, Stephen Folan; Dave Webster, Tony McNamee (Ruairi Harkin 68), Gareth Harkin, Mark Coyle (Raffaele Cretero 68), Mark Russell; Ryan Connolly; Adam Foley (Sam Todd 79).
St Patrick’s Athletic: Brendan Clarke; Ray Feely, Luke McNally, Lee Desmond, Shane Griffin (Ben McCormack 87); Chris Forrester, Jamie Lennon, Robbie Benson; Jordan Gibson (Darragh Burns 77), Georgie Kelly, Jason McClelland (Billy King 61).
Referee: Robert Harvey