Johnny Kenny 51' -
It took a calamitous error from Finn Harps goalkeeper, Mark McGinley, to provide Sligo Rovers with a hard fought win at the Showgrounds on Saturday evening, with Johnny Kenny taking advantage to score the only goal of the game.
With both teams unbeaten in this years Premier Division it was always going to be a tough battle and the first forty-five minutes were about as hard fought as things get.
Such was the intensity of both sides’ pressing, and the pressure put on anyone who happened across a moment of possession, that we were essentially treated to a first half of high octane pinball.
No discernible patterns of play evolved in an opening period that offered precious few moments of goalmouth excitement.
Sligo did create a half chance after ten minutes when Karl O’Sullivan’s foul on Walter Figueira wide on the left offered them a free kick. This was curled beyond the back post and headed back into the danger area but there was no Sligo player on hand to take advantage.
Otherwise Jordan Gibson went down in the Harps box without there being any real prospect of a penalty and, with half an hour played, the same player almost broke through courtesy of a one-two with team-mate Romeo Parkes.
Parkes too had a moment of danger when he saw Harps’ ‘keeper, Ed McGinty, pull off a remarkable save to deny his effort on 36 minutes.
Half time was almost a relief, allowing some respite from the relentless nature of the play. Young Sligo striker Johnny Kenny came on for Ryan De Vries and although the opening stages of the second half operated at a similar level the game soon began to open up.
Kosovar Sadiki met Barry McNamee’s free kick on 48 minutes but failed to properly test McGinty, and a minute later at the other end Parkes saw his header drift off target.
But then, on 51 minutes, came the breakthrough. With young Kenny giving chase, Harps fed the ball across their own backline to keeper McGinley but his heavy touch presented the striker with an unexpected opportunity. He didn’t need asking twice and rolled the ball into an open goal to give the home side the lead.
Harps responded by sending on Tunde Owolabi for the out of sorts Adam Foley and Ollie Horgan’s men instantly looked and felt more dangerous, Will Seymore driving a 30-yarder narrowly wide.
But it was Jordan Gibson who was taking control of a game which was opening up rapidly. On 63 minutes he picked up the ball in the centre circle, skipped past threeHarps players and then slipped a pass to Kenny on his right. The goal-scorer drilled a low ball across goal that Figueira might well have made more of.
A flurry of chances followed for a home side that was now in full control. Figueira and Gibson were the tormentors in chief and Sligo might well have added a second but for several decent saves by McGinley.
Harps never gave up the hunt for an equaliser but they just didn’t have enough forward threat to play through their hosts, and their high balls smacked more of hope than genuine threat.
On 90 minutes Harps almost managed a last gasp leveller when breaking with pace from their own corner flag. Mark Coyle and then Stephen Folan whipped the ball across the pitch to the left wing where a deliciously flighted cross found Sean Boyd. Only a saving challenge by Robbie McCourt denied the young striker and ensured Harps first defeat of the season and a five-match unbeaten start to Sligo’s season.
Sligo Rovers: Ed McGinty; Colm Horgan, Garry Buckley, John Mahon, Robbie McCourt; Greg Bolger; Jordan Gibson, Ryan De Vries (Johnny Kenny 46), Niall Morahan, Walter Figueira; Romeo Parkes (David Cawley 78).
Subs Not Used: Richard Brush (gk), Peter Maguire, Scott Lynch, Regan Donelon, Darren Collins, Mark Byrne, Lewis Banks.
Finn Harps: Mark McGinley; Ethan Boyle (Stephen Doherty 70), Shane McEleney, Kosovar Sadiki, Dave Webster; Karl O’Sullivan (Stephen Folan 84), Will Seymore (Sean Boyd 84), Mark Coyle, Barry McNamee; Mark Russell (Ryan Shanley 70); Adam Foley (Tunde Owolabi 55).
Subs Not Used: Patrick McGarvey (gk), Ryan Rainey, Tony McNamee, Niall McGinley.
Referee: Paul McLaughlin.
Player of the Match: Jordan Gibson (Sligo Rovers)