Second placed Finn Harps maintained their push for promotion to the Premier Division when they came from behind to beat Athlone away from home last Friday night. The Town took an early shock lead but Ollie Horgan’s men were back on level terms through Nathan Boyle by half time. A second score from Boyle early in the second half put Harps in front as Keith Cowan sealed victory with a late third goal.
Ciaran Canty, the latest signing for Athlone by manager Terry Butler, was on the substitute’s bench as the home side showed five changes to the side that had exited the FAI Cup against Shelbourne. The former Cabinteely player came on in the second half to make his Athlone debut.
Harps previous visit to Athlone back in March had seen the home side pick up their first point of the season in a major early season upset. There looked to be another possible shock on the cards when the hosts hit the front with just eight minutes played. A free kick was earned and when Shane Stokes sent in the ball from the right, Nika Kalandarishvili found the net with a glancing header from close range.
The Georgian had a chance to double the lead soon after but Harps keeper Ciaran Gallagher got down to make the save. Horgan’s men gradually came more into contention thereafter and were on level terms just after the half hour mark. A goalmouth scramble following a corner kick saw Boyle toe poke the ball home at the back post. It remained at one goal apiece though until the half time break.
Harps could not afford to drop any points if they were to catch league leaders UCD and were soon on the attack when play resumed. Jacob Borg was unmarked in the box but his glancing header was safely gathered by Town goalkeeper Mick Fogarty. Harps, however, were not to be denied for long and hit the front after 55 minutes. A long ball forward was not dealt with by the home defence and Boyle took advantage to turn the ball home for his second goal of the game.
Substitute Jesse Devers then fired wide with Athlone sub Ciaran Byrne also off target at the other end. Harps sealed victory with a third goal on 83 minutes. It proved to be the goal of the game as Harps captain Cowan volleyed to the top corner of the net from the edge of the penalty area.
It was comfortable for Harps in the closing stages with Mark Coyle coming close with a good strike which Fogarty turned away. Josh Hogan drilled a late free kick for Athlone off the defensive wall with Byrnes follow up effort being saved. In the five additional minutes, Coyle had a further chance for Harps but the winning margin remained at two goals as Athlone suffered yet another defeat.
Butler’s men will complete their home campaign at the weekend when they welcome Cobh Ramblers to the midlands on Friday.