Saint Patrick’s Athletic sustained the pressure on league leaders Sligo Rovers with a 1-0 victory over Dublin rivals Shelbourne thanks to Greg Bolger’s first half goal in Inchicore.
The Wexford man’s 9th minute header from Ger O’Brien’s superb cross from the right flank proved to be the decisive score in an entertaining Dublin derby.
The result reflected the small margin between the two as Shelbourne had their own chances to win, as was proved when the visitors created the opening chance of the game. Some neat interplay between Philly Hughes and Paul Byrne created the space for Hughes to lay the ball off into the path of Pat Kavanagh, however the former Shamrock Rovers player could only blast his effort over the bar of Saints’ keeper Brendan Clarke.
The Saints proved to notch what proved to be the winning goal of the night as early as the ninth minute however as they put together one of their typical smooth passages of play. After Working the ball into space for the overlapping Ger O’Brien, the full-back’s whipped cross found the late run into the box of Bolger and the former Dundalk man’s header looped over the helpless Dean Delaney to give the Saints the lead.
The goal did little to discourage the Saints from continuing to attack the Reds as they continued to search for further goals. On 15 minutes, Bolger turned from goalscorer to creator as he set Saints’ top-scorer Christy Fagan up on the edge of the box, but the striker’s sharp turn and shot drew a save from Delaney with his legs.
Shelbourne, who already looking unsettled, were dealt a further blow as Ian Ryan limped off through injury and was replaced by Gareth Matthews. However they soon began to settle and eventually get a foothold in the Dublin derby as a Philly Hughes free was deflected over Clarke’s crossbar, and the resulting corner forced the keeper into having come off his line to clear with Paul Byrne ready to pounce.
The Saints thought they had extended their lead on 34 minutes as another surging run from defence by Ger O’Brien end with the full-back crossing into the box. With O’Brien’s cross heading into the six yard box, Shels’ keeper Dean Delaney could only manage to parry the ball across his own line. With the Saints’ fans already celebrating however, the keeper’s embarrassment was short lived as the linesman flagged for Ger O’Brien’s cross to have come gone out of play before reaching Delaney in the Shels’ goal.
The Saints again threatened the Reds’ goal on 39 minutes, Christy Fagan getting to the byline but after squaring the ball to goalscorer Bolger, the midfielder could only sky his effort over the bar. The half ended 1-0 to the Saints, but Liam Buckley’s side were dealt a huge blow as the talented Chris Forrester failed to see out the opening half as he eventually limped off at the interval with what appeared to be an ankle injury.
Jake Carroll entered the fray for the Saints for the injured Forrester, while Alan Matthews chose to switch his 4-4-2 formation to 4-5-1 to match up things with Buckley’s Saints. As the second half would develop, the move proved to bring the best out of Matthews’ players.
The Saints’ looked to extend their lead on 50 minutes, but topscorer Christy Fagan couldn’t find the net. After Dean Kelly twisted past Gareth Matthews, the Saints’ forward squared the ball across to Fagan, however the former Bohs man’s strike was superbly blocked by Shels’ Brian Shortall.
Shelbourne went agonisingly close to drawing level on 68 minutes as Philly Hughes nearly came back to haunt his former side. Picking the ball up in acres of space on the right, Shels’ winger Conan Byrne delivered an inch perfect cross for Hughes, but the striker’s header to the far corner of the net rebounded off Brendan Clarke’s crossbar and bounced clear.
Shels again went close to equalising with an effort that could have been a contender for goal of the season. After a battle for possession in the middle of the park. Shels’ Stephen Hurley controlled the ball and saw Saints’ keeper Brendan Clarke off his line. The youngsters efforts had Clarke completely beaten, but the strike drifted just wide of the target to the keeper’s relief.
The Saints’ again came close to killing the game off with 10 minutes remaining after a mistake from Shelbourne’s Stephen Paisley. A cross field ball from the left from Saints’ full-back Ian Bermingham went in the direction of Paisley, but after the defender’s attempted headed clearance could only loop up in the air. Darren Meenan pounced, but despite being left one on one with Delaney, the Shels’ keeper rescued his side as he saved Meenan’s shot at his near post.
Any chances Shelbourne had of a comeback were soon dashed however as Matthews’ side were reduced to men for the second successive league game. With Ger O’Brien pushing forward once more, Barry Clancy tackled the Saints’ defender with two feet and from behind, leaving referee Anthony Buttimer no choice but to produce a red card for Clancy.
With five minutes remaining, the Saints held firm and resisted any pressure from Shels and saw out the game to earn their first league win against Shels in nine years, their first home league win against the Reds in a decade.
St Patrick's Athletic: Brendan Clarke; Ger O’Brien, Conor Kenna (c), Kenny Browne, Ian Bermingham; Darren Meenan, James Chambers, Chris Forrester (Jake Carroll 46), Greg Bolger, Dean Kelly; Christy Fagan.
Subs Not Used: Brian Murphy, Aidan Price, Pat Flynn, Sean O’Connor, Ryan Coombes, Ian Daly.
Yellow Cards: D Kelly (53), Fagan (89).
Shelbourne: Dean Delany; Ian Ryan (Gareth Matthews 23), Stephen Paisley, Brian Shortall, Barry Clancy; Conan Byrne (Philip Gorman 79), David Cassidy, Kevin Dawson, Pat Kavanagh; Paul Byrne (Stephen Hurley 46), Philly Hughes.
Subs Not Used: Paul Skinner, Andy Boyle, Brendan McGill, Sean Byrne, Stephen Hurley, Philip Gorman.
Yellow Cards: G Matthews (35).
Red Cards: Clancy (84).
Referee: Anthony Buttimer.
Extratime Man of the Match: Greg Bolger.