Goals either side of half time condemned Square United to defeat in their first competitive outing of the 2017/18 season as they lost 0-2 to Premier Division outfit Boyne Harps in the Kilmessan Shield in Drogheda on Wednesday evening.
Ahead of Sunday’s league opener against Johnstown in Ardee, Harps struck six minutes before and after the half time interval to come out on top against a hardworking and dogged Square side. The performance was frustrating in parts, but only because they couldn’t build on their sporadic superiority by creating chances in the final third. Danny Coyle and Chrissy McDonnell were the Boyne scorers.
Tony Boyle was taking charge of Square at Meadowview and he saw his side almost go behind inside a minute. Striker Kingsley danced his way past several Square defenders en route to goal and Square conceded an indirect free kick after Sheridan was adjudged to have passed the ball back to Paric Malone, who gathered. Andy Rogers was quickest out of the wall to block the close range shot.
The young striker was a constant threat for the hosts, looking to run in behind the central defensive pairing of Stefan Halpenny and Mark Quinn. Former Drogheda United midfielder Austin McCann blasted over at the back post and Kevin Walsh got in down the left but his shot went wide of the near post.
Clear cut chances were few and far between. Harps were seeing more of the ball, but Square were mixing it reasonably well. Linking midfield and attack provied troublesome, with Kelly and Kerley seeing little of the ball in the opening half. The tricky McKenny wasn’t involved a whole lot either, with most of Square’s play coming down the left.
Kerley and Kelly both had reasonable chances for Square but neither forward connected well enough with their shots – leaving new goalkeeper Bryan Smith with routine saves each time. Moments before Boyne stuck the opener, referee John Crawley waved away penalty claims at the other end. It looked as if when stretching for a loose ball, centre back Mickey Matthews brought down Kerley. The protests on the Square sidelines were loud and adamant.
Moments later, Square were left feeling doubly aggrieved. Coyle found himself in the right place to half volley the ball unerringly past Malone for 1-0.
After half time, the veteran McCann – a new signing and a player who looked a class above all night in truth – fired over before McDonnell took a touch and turned in a right wing cross.
United weren’t competing in the midfield battle after the break nearly as well as they had done in the first half. Boyne were well on top when Kingsley’s shot was held by Malone. But when Kelly dropped deeper to operate in central midfield, they were more forward thinking. He attempted to thread a few balls in for runners in behind.
Walsh and McCann were the next to have shots at goal, the latter blocked well by Quinn. The Square back four did well on the whole, with Halpenny in particular proving a difficult obstacle to get by when Boyne headed for goal.
Late on, with bigger battles to come for Boyne, Square began to look capable of pulling one back. Their best move came when Kelly played in Kerley and he squared for Evan Farrell. The substitute laid off for Rogers but Smith was fully behind his fiercely hit shot. Quinn also forced the Harps stopper into a late save, from a 22 yard free kick. Peter Clarke couldn’t turn in the rebound.
At the death, Boyne sub Mickey Leech missed a sitter but 3-0 would have been harsh on Square. Their attentions now turn to Sunday’s Division 1 league opener on home soil.
SQUARE UNITED: Paric Malone, Killian Murray, Stefan Halpenny, Mark Quinn, Martin Duffy, Pearce Callan (Peter Clarke, 78), Jonny Sheridan (Evan Farrell, 60), Andy Rogers (C), Jamie McKenny (Shane Corrigan, 60), Chris Kelly, Aaron Kerley (Josh Gargan, 78).