Gerard Grimes reports from United Park
A late strike from substitute John O’Flynn handed Finn Harps all three points and inflicted a first home league defeat of the season on Drogheda United at United Park on Friday.
It was Harps who started the better of the two sides and they had the first chance of the game just two minutes in.
Jesse Devers cross from the right found Mark Coyle, but his volley was saved well by Skinner low to his left.
The visitors next chance came down the right again, with Gareth Harkin this time the creator as his ball found Mark Timlin, but the midfielder couldn’t hit the target.
Drogheda’s first effort came on 12 minutes as Ciaran Kelly’s out swinging cross was met by Gareth McCaffrey, who saw his header bounce wide of the far post.
The home side had another effort less than a minute later but this time the ball bounced up just in front of Mark Doyle from Brennan’s through ball, meaning he could only head it into the arms of Ciaran Gallagher.
Harps went close from a Timlin corner as Mikey Place connected with the cross in the six-yard box but headed over the bar.
The pressure continued from the visitors as Place played a ball into the box towards Todd, forward from the back, who did well to lay the ball off quickly to Coyle, but the Harps man fired over the bar.
The game lost its flow as the first half was broken up by a couple of stoppages in plays for injuries to Sean Brennan for Drogheda and Paddy McCourt and Mark Coyle for Drogheda – with both Harps men having to be substituted before the break.
That did seem to allow Drogheda to find their rhythm somewhat as they then began to play their best football of the half, with Purdy’s strike from outside the box palmed over the bar by Gallagher after good build up from Drogheda on the left.
The last chance of the half saw Brennan again split the defence with a through ball, but Doyle’s effort didn’t trouble Gallagher in the Harps goal.
Drogheda began the second half positively and managed to create a few chances, with McCaffrey first hitting an effort over the bar from Hyland’s cross before Sean Brennan’s free took a deflection and was claimed at the second attempt by Gallagher.
Harps almost took the lead a minute later against the run of play, as Drogheda failed to deal with a corner, but Kelly headed off the line at the back post while under pressure from Todd.
Gallagher was soon called back into action as Hyland again played the ball to McCaffrey, who set himself and shot but again, Gallagher was equal to it.
The keeper's best save was still to come though as Lyons played it short to the onrushing Brennan, but he saw his effort brilliantly palmed over the bar by the Harps shotstopper.
Chances became few and far between with the next effort of the game coming with sixteen minutes to play as Kelly’s cross was chested by Lyons into Doyle’s path but again Gallagher denied Drogheda.
Harps almost took the lead in bizarre fashion two minutes later when a cross from the right hit a Drogheda defender and bounced off the bar rather than into Skinner’s hands, where the original cross looked headed.
Drogheda could have claimed all three points with two minutes to go as under pressure, from Farragher, Gallagher failed to claim a long ball into the Harps box.
The ball fell to Doyle 20 yards out, but he blasted high over the bar rather than finding the net with the keeper off his line.
Drogheda were then left to rue their missed chances in the second half as with a minute of normal time to play, Harps grabbed the winner.
Two of Harps' substitutes combined as Nathan Boyle picked the ball up in midfield, beat his man and played in John O’Flynn on the right and he fired into the far corner to win it for the visitors.
Drogheda United: Paul Skinner; Colm Deasy, Kevin Farragher, Luke Gallagher, Ciaran Kelly; Richie Purdy, Sean Brennan (Rob Manley 87), Jake Hyland (C); Gareth McCaffrey (Lee Duffy 71), Chris Lyons, Mark Doyle.
Subs not used: Luka Gratzer (gk), Victor Ekanem, Lloyd Buckley, Kealan Dillon, William Hondermarck.
Booked: Sean Brennan (59), Chris Lyons (64).
Finn Harps: Ciaran Gallagher; Aidan Friel, Sam Todd, Gareth Harkin, Keith Cowan (C), Lee Toland; Mark Timlin, Paddy McCourt (Nathan Boyle 46+1), Jesse Devers (John O’Flynn 87); Mark Coyle (Niall McGinley 31), Mikey Place.
Subs not used: Peter Burke (gk), Mark Hanlon, Adam Duffy.
Booked: Paddy McCourt (27), Sam Todd (69), Nathan Boyle (83), Keith Cowan (86).
Referee: Sean Grant.
Attendance: 200 (estimate).
Extratime.ie Player of the Match: Ciaran Gallagher (Finn Harps).