A depleted Waterford United team took a point from Ballybofey on Saturday night last. Due to illness and suspensions, among other reasons, Blues boss Roddy Collins had just two outfield substitutes to choose from.
And when striker Daniel Pender had to be stretchered off with five minutes remaining, substitute goalkeeper Matthew Connor had to play up front as a striker.
Given the circumstances this really was an excellent result, leaving Waterford United two points behind a Cabinteely side who recorded a scoreless draw at Shelbourne.
Rob Waters came in for his first home appearance as a Harps player, the Cork native taking the place of Nathan Boyle, reported unwell beforehand, but he make it onto the paddock for the closing 18 minutes.
Harps opened with intent, but Michael Funston drove over after Keith Cowan’s ball over the top picked out the Bonagee man.
Soon after, Ciaran Coll – having his most consistent season at Finn Park – pushed past Dean Reidy, only for Rob Waters fired wide with the connection.
Harps could have taken the lead in the 17th minute when Kevin McHugh played in Tony McNamee but his shot-cum-cross was missed by inches by Waters, who rushed in at the far post.
Just after the half-hour, McNamee ought to have hit the target when he connected to Waters’ centre, but the Ramelton man headed over from eight yards.
The Blues continued to battle away and ensured it ultimately proved a frustrating evening for the home followers as they headed for half-time still scoreless.
Waterford came close to taking the lead 11 minutes into the second half when Anthony McAlavey set up Corey Galvin and he struck the post with a cracking strike from outside the penalty area. Kevin McHugh went close for Harps on 66 minutes after meeting a cross from Tony McNamee.
Finn Park erupted after 73 minutes when Damien McNulty powered home a header from Tony McNamee’s inviting free kick, but the offside flag of assistant referee Alan Dunne cut short Harps’ celebrations. And that incident appeared to knock the heart out of the home side. Ciaran Coll fired wide shortly afterwards and Robert Birdsall saved well from Nathan Boyle on 81 minutes.
Waterford played the final five minutes with substitute goalkeeper Matthew Connor stationed up front after Daniel Pender was carried off on a stretcher.
In added time, Boyle fired wastefully wide and the silence that followed summed up the feelings of the home supporters.
Next up for Waterford United is a home game against Cabinteely on Friday week, September 18th and victory for the Blues would see them leapfrog the Dubliners at the base of Division One.
Finn Harps: Ciaran Gallagher; Damien McNulty, Keith Cowan, Thomas McMonagle, Ciaran Coll; Michael Funston, Gareth Harkin, Raymond Foy, Tony McNamee; Rob Waters, Kevin McHugh.
Substitutes: Matthew Crossan for Gareth Harkin (58 mins), Wilfried Tagbo for Rob Waters (66) and Nathan Boyle for Michael Funston (72).
Waterford United: Robert Birdsall; Dean Reidy, Colum Nugent, Shane Mackey, Shane Dineen; Corey Galvin, Evan Galvin, Brian Nolan, Anthony McAlavey, Aaron O’Connor; Daniel Pender.
Substitutes: Mark Walsh for Aaron O’Connor (66 mins), Robbie Buckley for Dean Reidy (78) and Matthew Connor for Daniel Pender (85).
Referee: Ray Matthews (Mullingar).