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St Patrick’s Athletic started their pre-season programme with a relatively trouble free 2-0 win over First Division Longford Town with defenders Kenny Browne and Conor Kenna doing the damage at Richmond Park on Thursday afternoon.
St Pats started this game with eight new players in their starting eleven and a new boss in the dugout, as former Sporting Fingal manager Liam Buckley took the reins for the first time in what is his second spell at the Inchicore club.
Ian Bermingham, Conor Kenna and Jake Carroll were the only Saints from 2010 that started the game with former Shamrock Rovers man James Chambers manning the central midfield birth on his return from a spell at Scottish club Hamilton Academical.
And it was Chambers who pulled the strings in a first half that saw the home side out-pass their lower league opponents. With just Christy Fagan operating alone on the front line Pats needed to move the ball well in midfield, which was precisely what they did.
Chambers, Mark Rossiter and Chris Forrester pinged the ball about nicely in the middle while Darren Meenan and Jake Carroll were happy to push forward down the flanks. The Pats back four also looked composed on the ball, Kenny Browne in particular standing out.
Fagan passed up the chance of his first goal for Pats when he cracked his 11th minute penalty low and to the left of Paul Hunt in the Longford goal. It just wasn't left enough and Hunt got down to block the shot. But the opening goal did come on 13 minutes when a Chambers corner from the left was battered past Hunt by the forehead of Browne, arriving at the far post like a train.
Longford had competed well in the early stages but they found themselves relying more on the industry of midfielders Sean Skelly and James O’Brien than on any real sense of creativity. Lone frontman Austin Skelly offered some deft flicks and an eye for finding team mates in space, but he was largely subdued by the towering presence of Browne.
Christy Fagan might have added to Pats’ lead on 19 minutes but he shot into the side-netting from six yards out having collected Ger O’Brien’s free in space at the back post. But six minutes later Pats were two up.
Gary Cronin conceded a free on Longford’s left having been left behind by Darren Meenan. Chambers passed square to Rossiter whose effort from 20 yards was flicked home by Conor Kenna.
Longford put out a more experienced eleven in the second half with Keith Gillespie and Alan Kirby coming in to central midfield along with Dan Purdy. Jamie Duffy took up a wide position on the right and Colm James replaced Graham Dowling at right back.
It was certainly a more combative affair and St Pats took a while to adjust to the newly competitive atmosphere. Gillespie, Sean Skelly and Pats sub Greg Bolger were all booked and the arrival of Stephen O’Flynn in place of Fagan further increased the temperature.
Before his departure, Fagan tested Craig Hyland in the Longford goal, turning on the edge of the box and forcing the ‘keeper to parry the ball away at his right hand post. At the other end Kirby created a chance for Purdy whose well hit shot screamed narrowly over the home crossbar.
The game faded in the latter stages but it was a performance that will encourage the St Pats support while Longford offered enough to persuade their fans that, in the less rarified air of the First Division, they too can have reasonable expectations of a successful season.
St Patrick’s Athletic: Barry Murphy; Ger O’Brien (Pat Flynn, 46), Ian Bermingham (Jake Kelly, 66), Conor Kenna, Kenny Browne; Darren Meenan, Mark Rossiter, James Chambers (Ian Daly, 70), Chris Forrester (Greg Bolger, 66), Jake Carroll; Christy Fagan (Stephen O’Flynn, 66).
Unused Subs: Brendan Clarke
Longford Town: Paul Hunt (Craig Hyland, 46); Graham Dowling (Colm James, 46), Karl keogh, Noel Haverty, Gary Cronin; Jacques Morley (Jamie Duffy, 46), James O’Brien (Alan Kirby, 46), Mark Salmon (Keith Gillespie, 46), Sean Skelly (Daniel Purdy, 46), Thomas Crawley; Austin Skelly (Dean Cosgrave, 75).
Unused Subs: None
Attendance: 300 (estimate)
Man of the Match: Kenny Browne