Cork City continue to edge towards the Airtricity League Premier Division title but they had to work hard before finally seeing off a battling relegation-threatened Finn Harps at Finn Park last night.
Garry Buckley finally broke the deadlock after 70 minutes to set City on the road to their 13th away league win in 14 outings this season.
City are now 17 points ahead of Dundalk with seven games to play.
City, who were shocked by that home defeat against Sligo on Friday, peppered the Harps goal with shots and really should have wrapped the game up in the first half.
But the Donegal side, who haven’t beaten Cork since returning to the Premier Division, provided stubborn resistance.
Cork showed their intentions from early on as Kieran Sadlier wormed his way into the Harps box and crossed, forcing Ciaran Gallagher into an important intervention. Karl Sheppard then headed over as he met a Sadlier cross.
However, Harps — who were thumped 4-0 by St Patrick’s Athletic last Friday night — then settled and briefly played some neat football with Paddy McCourt, back from suspension, a pivotal figure as always.
But City always looked lively on the counter-attack, and Sheppard was denied a dash towards goal by the lurching Kilian Cantwell, at the expense of a yellow card.
Sadlier, increasingly to the fore, then went close to giving City the lead as he controlled the ball well before unleashing a cracking low drive that spun just outside Gallagher’s post on 21 minutes.
Moments later, Sadlier skipped down the left flank and whipped in a ball for the in-rushing Sheppard whose near flick was capably gathered by the increasingly overworked Harps’ netminder.
Gearóid Morrissey then rose above the Harps defence to meet a Steven Beattie cross with a firm header that was narrowly over the bar.
By the half-hour mark, Harps were trying to keep at bay wave after wave of City attacks, with only the occasional respite such as a Sean Houston show well over the target.
Gallagher then tipped over a Sadlier header inside the six yard box on 35 minutes and Conor McCormack then saw a long-range effort deflected beyond the goal.
John Caulfield’s relatively calm disposition on the sidelines was in stark contrast to the animated Harps’ supremo Ollie Horgan who was constantly bellowing out instructions.
Jimmy Keohane was next to unnerve the home side with a great header just outside the post as he latched onto another fine Sadlier cross.
Shane Griffin wriggled his way into space to produce the first shot on goal in the second half before a Tommy McBride ball across the face of the City goal at the other end briefly lifted Harps’ spirits.
Sheppard then also got the telling touch to another Sadiler ball in as the pattern of the opening 45 minutes began to be repeated.
Mark Timlin carved out a decent chance for Harps on 63 minutes but blasted over from a good position.
Cork eventually broke the deadlock on 70 minutes when Buckley pounced from close range to stab the ball home for what turned out to be the winner after Ryan Delaney’s initial effort had come back off the post.
The ubiquitous Sadlier and substitute Connor Ellis were both denied by Gallagher and Buckley missed a fine chance to double the tally as the final stages were played out on an increasingly energy-sapping surface as the rain pelted down.
But it didn’t dampen spirits among the travelling fans who can now look forward to an FAI Cup second round home clash against First Division strugglers Athlone Town before the league action resumes with a trip to Tallaght to tackle Shamrock Rovers.
Gallagher; Cantwell, McNulty, Coll; Boyle, McBride (Bonner, 87 mins), McCourt, Timlin (Millien, 80 mins), Harkin; Houston; Morrissey (Keita, 62 mins).
McNulty; Beattie, Bennett, Delaney, Griffin; Morrissey; Keohane, McCormack, Buckley, Sadlier (Ellis, 88 mins); Sheppard.
P. Tuite (Dublin).
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