St. Patrick’s Athletic closed the gap to league leaders Sligo Rovers to six points on Tuesday night after a 2-1 win against Dublin-rivals Shamrock Rovers at Richmond Park.
St. Pat’s controlled the opening period and had numerous chances to build a substantial, but instead their two-goal lead led to a nervy ending after Rovers halved the deficit in the final quarter.
Shamrock Rovers began brightly and had a good chance in the opening minutes. Ciaran Kilduff flicked his header to Billy Dennehy who found Ronan Finn but his shot was brilliantly blocked by Greg Bolger.
Only five minutes had passed before the first talking point of the game. Bolger played in Sean O’Connor down the right, he cut inside but his shot deflected off Colin Hawkins, a deflection that referee Neil Doyle adjudged to have been a handball and the penalty was given. Hawkins and Stephen O’Donnell were both booked for their protests but Sean O’Connor ignored the delay and fired past Oscar Jansson from 12-yards.
A good start became an ever better start one for The Saints when they doubled their lead just two minutes later. Jake Carroll dribbled his way past two Rovers defenders in the penalty area before his shot deflected off Colin Hawkins on its way to the back of the net.
Rovers tried their best to get back into the game but found Barry Murphy in their path, as he saved well from Ciaran Kilduff point-blank back post strike from McCabe ‘s cross.
The home side continued to attack and looked like scoring again on 26 minutes. Conor Kenna’s superb through ball set Carroll away again down the left and he crossed for Christy Fagan, but the striker couldn’t get the ball out from under his feet and the chance was lost.
Jake Kelly tested Jansson one minute after the break, his volley from Ian Bermingham cross but he couldn’t beat the shotstopper.
Kelly came close again minutes later, this time heading straight at Jansson in the Rovers goal from Ger O’Brien’s inviting cross.
Shamrock Rovers got the lifeline their play rarely deserved when they reduced the deficit with twelve minutes to go. Gary McCabe collected the ball 30-yards out and struck an unstoppable shot into the top left corner past the despairing dive of Pat’s keeper Barry Murphy.
Rovers pushed in the final fifteen minutes and they almost grabbed an unlikely equaliser in the dying minutes but Ciaran Kilduff’s header came back off the woodwork in a crowded penalty area. St. Pat’s held on for a well deserved win but Rovers second half rally will give manager Brian Laws some hope for the coming weeks.
St. Patrick’s Athletic: Barry Murphy; Ger O’Brien, Pat Flynn, Conor Kenna, Ian Bermingham; Sean O’Connor (Darren Meenan 64), Greg Bolger, James Chambers (Ryan Coombes 82), Jake Carroll, Jake Kelly; Christy Fagan (Vinny Faherty 72).
Subs not used: Brendan Clarke, Anto Flood, Aidan Price, Kenny Browne.
Bookings: Carroll (28).
Shamrock Rovers: Oscar Jansson; Sean Gannon, Craig Sives, Colin Hawkins, Shane O’Connor; Gary McCabe, Ronan Finn, Stephen O’Donnell (Aaron Greene 62), Killian Brennan, Billy Dennehy; Ciaran Kilduff.
Subs not used: Reyaad Pieterse, Daryl Kavanagh, Ken Oman, Gary Twigg, Thomas Stewart, Gary O’Neill.
Booking: Hawkins (6), O’Donnell (6), Shane O’Connor (36), McCabe (85).
Referee: Neil Doyle.
Official Attendance: 1,731
Man of the Match: Ronan Finn (Shamrock Rovers).