Cork City’s woes continued as a 76th-minute equaliser from captain Keith Cowan secured a draw for Finn Harps at Turner’s Cross last night.
The Donegal side’s second straight draw meant City have now gone eight games without a win in the league.
While a three-game scoring drought was ended with Kevin O’Connor’s free kick early in the second half, a second goal wasn’t found and Harps’ efforts to find an equaliser were ultimately rewarded.
Having lost to Derry City on Friday night, City had four changes, with Colm Horgan back from injury and Kevin O’Connor starting for the first time in six games while Pierce Phillips was given his first league start of the season and Graham Cummins was back in attack.
Suspended pair Dan Casey and Conor McCormack as well as Daire O’Connor and Darragh Rainsford dropped out of the team.
Harps, so close to their first league win of the season at Sligo on Friday, also had four changes, with captain Keith Cowan among those included while John Kavanagh, on loan from City, was prevented from playing.
Once again playing a 4-2-2-2 with Sheppard and Cummins up front, City attempted to fashion a good start against the one team with worse form than them and in the sixth minute Sheppard was on the end of a Cummins flick-on but he fired narrowly wide from inside the area.
Five minutes later, Sheppard was the provider as he diverted Horgan’s cross to Cummins at the back post but he was just unable to steer the ball in. Harps weren’t sitting back themselves though and, when they won a free kick on the right edge of the area, Mark Russell’s whipped effort was just over while Jacob Borg’s cross for Seán Boyd saw his header saved by Mark McNulty.
By and large though, City retained the initiative and on 35 minutes they went closer as Sheppard’s cross for Cummins was perfect and Peter Burke had to save brilliantly at the expense of a corner.
Coming up to half-time, they had just as good a chance, as Shane Griffin made good progress on the left and crossed for Kevin O’Connor. Burke denied him too, with Sheppard unable to keep the rebound on target.
Harps’ Caolán McAleer had a late effort which landed in the Shed End but, in the same goal four minutes into the second half, the deadlock was broken.
City had won a free kick when Cummins was fouled as attempted to punish a poor Burke clearance and, as he did in the President’s Cup against Dundalk, O’Connor stepped up to curl in a 25-yard effort, though this time to the left of the goalkeeper.
While it lifted the home faithful in the crowd of 1,612 – there were 10 hardy Harps souls in the away section – it didn’t signal a goal glut and the visitors had the better chances in the wake of the strike.
Niall Logue’s header from McAleer’s free kick on 58 had to be well saved by McNulty and then on 65 Jacob Borg’s header from Michael Gallagher’s cross hit the post. Immediately after that, City broke and Sheppard’s effort from a tight angle similarly found the woodwork.
However, Harps were level on 74. They won a corner which wasn’t cleared properly and when the ball fell to sub Tony McNamee outside the area, he sent it back to where captain Cowan was able to direct it past McNulty from close range.
City pushed for a second goal in the time that remained, but Cummins was denied by good defending from Cowan in his natural habitat, while Conor McCarthy’s shot flashed over after Burke didn’t get enough on a punch clear from a corner.
Four minutes of injury time brought City pressure but little else, with a draw the disappointing outcome.
McNulty; Horgan (Bennett 75), McCarthy, McLoughlin, Griffin; Phillips (Rainsford 79), K O’Connor (D O’Connor 69), Buckley, Tilley; Cummins, Sheppard.
Burke; Todd, Cowan, Logue; Gallagher, Coyle, Borg (McNamee 73), Russell; McAleer (Cretaro 73), Boyle (Ascroft 89); Boyd.
R Hennessy (Limerick).