For a second game running Sligo Rovers ran away the more satisfied in a 0-0 draw when they held St. Patrick’s Athletic to a frustrating stalemate in Richmond Park on Tuesday night, in a result which sees the Saints remain in eighth position in the Premier Division while the Bit O’Red stake a firmer claim on the outside perimeter of European football in fifth.
The Saints began the night’s proceedings in the lowly spot of eighth after their League Cup triumph over Limerick at the Markets Field last weekend was followed by the postponement of their Friday night date with Finn Harps in Ballybofey, meaning the club had not completed a league fixture since a defeat to Bray Wanderers at the beginning of September.
Sligo, meanwhile, were riding high just outside the realms of European possibility in fifth following a second-half surge to their season in which the Bit O’Red claimed four wins from nine games on top of a significant 0-0 draw at home to title-chasers Cork City on Saturday evening.
Dave Robertson's side had already beaten Tuesday’s opponents earlier in the season when Raffale Cretaro’s strike put a 1-0 scoreline between the sides in July after a 1-1 draw at Richmond Park in April.
One win in their previous five outings did not diminish spirits for Sligo in this affair however. While a streak of seven games unbeaten supplied the narrative for a bright summer for the visitors to Inchicore, a string of three losses followed, including exit from the FAI Cup at the hands of Wexford Youths for Sligo.
But they began the brighter in this game, with early pressure from St. Pats by way of Ian Bermingham and Ger O’Brien constantly pushing forward meaning a visibly exposed high line would be the viable course of attack for the visitors.
Kieran Sadlier offered another performance which has made the attacker stand out so frequently this season, alongside six league goals to his name this campaign. Bermingham was pushed to his complete limits in defence, having a struggling front seat view of Sadlier trailing in front of him time after time to nudge a cross into Brendan Clarke’s penalty area.
Sadlier played protagonist in front of goal too, and he appeared all but likely to give Sligo the lead when defender Tobi Adebayo-Rowling’s cross, cut back to the edge of the box, saw Sadlier fire a guilt-edged chance wide of the target.
This followed an equally presentable chance for St. Pats when Billy Dennehy’s free-kick was headed down into the path of Christy Fagan by the former Cork City star’s brother Darren. Fagan, however, caught the ball awkwardly and failed to hit the target when the lion’s share of the goal lay at his mercy.
The second half lended lulling moments of inactivity with short bursts of relentless, high-tempo football - St. Pats often plating victim to Sligo’s daring to go for all three points later in the game.
St. Pats more often than not held firm in their defensive shape as Sligo pushed bodies forward, passing the ball side-to-side, waiting for an opening that never appeared forthcoming in the home defence.
Graham Kelly and Lee Desmond in particular shut up shop to track the runners behind enemy lines effectively. The game presented itself finely poised as neither side appeared capable to craft a clear chance at goal, the game being played out in a hectic midfield wasteland.
In a game of wasted opportunities and few one-on-ones, it was the creative brilliance of second-half substitute Raffaele Cretaro that sparked the game into a frenzying life with half an hour to go.
Amid all the chaos and madness of Sligo’s attack and persistence, the ball fell to the feet of Cretaro who instilled a moment of creative brilliance to curl a beautiful shot sailing into the top corner.
But only to see his effort outdone by a magisterial save by the fingertips of Brendan Clarke who stretched into the topmost corner of his top corner to claw the ball up and over the crossbar to safety, and keep the scores locked at 0-0.
St. Pats fought back and could have had the three points all for themselves if not for the mis-firing boots of midfielder Graham Kelly. In a frighteningly similar vein to his open-goal miss versus Shamrock Rovers earlier this month, Kelly again trailed a horrendous effort over the crossbar with Ciaran Nugent and the Sligo goal at his beg and mercy.
But akin to the night’s overall narrative of missed chances, Kelly passed up the opportunity and missed like so many had before him earlier in the game. Sligo’s Cretaro again dared to break the deadlock with minutes remaining on the clock with a cleverly volleyed chip in view of Clarke off his goal-line, but it fell short as the game meandered toward’s a shared, misfiring stalemate.
St. Patrick’s Athletic: Brendan Clarke; Ger O’Brien, Sean Hoare, Darren Dennehy (Michael Barker 64), Ian Bermingham; Lee Desmond, Graham Kelly, Conan Byrne, Billy Dennehy (Mark Timlin 79), Jamie McGrath; Christy Fagan (Rory Feely 64)
Subs not used: Patrick Jennings Jr (gk), Steven Kinsella, Dinny Corcoran
Sligo Rovers: Ciaran Nugent; Tobi Adebayo-Rowling, Mick Leahy, Pat McCann, Gavin Peers (Raffaele Cretaro 68); Craig Roddan, Gary Boylan (Regen Donelon 56), Jimmy Keohane, Liam Martin, Kieran Sadlier; Achille Campion
Subs not used:Philip Roberts, Daniel Kearns, Mickey Place, Mark Hannon
Bookings: Craig Rodan (88), Ciaran Nugent (90)
Referee: Graham Kelly
ExtraTime.ie Man of the Match: Lee Desmond (St. Patrick’s Athletic)