A Chris Forrester hat-trick helped St Patrick’s Athletic to an impressive 4-0 win over Shelbourne at Richmond Park on Monday night.
With three wins from their last four games St Pats were firm favourites to beat a Shelbourne side who were yet to record a league win and sure enough it was Liam Buckley’s men who made the moves in the early stages of the game.
John Russell had the first shot in anger, firing narrowly wide in the second minute, and Anto Flood had his header blocked three minutes later. Minutes later Killian Brennan volleyed a dropping ball just past Ger Hanley’s left hand post.
Shelbourne have only scored twice in their seven league games to date and Philly Hughes perhaps betrayed a slight hint of desperation when he elected to shoot from 40 yards after ten minutes. But the visitors soon showed that, despite their league position, they could play football too.
With quarter of an hour played Paul Crowley found Dean Kelly through the middle. He in turn fed Sean Brennan down the right and the winger’s cross was cleared only as far as Crowley who thumped a shot over the Pats bar. Moments later Hughes released the roving Robert Bayly but his return ball failed to find Hughes in the middle.
Pats reasserted themselves midway through the half and Conan Byrne drilled a low cross into the danger area which Brian Shortall did well not to divert into his own goal. Conor Kenna then knocked a wicked free kick from Killian Brennan back across the goal line without it finding a finishing touch.
Shelbourne rallied and came close to breaking the deadlock when Dean Kelly surged through the middle and saw his ferocious shot tipped over by Dave Ryan in the Pats goal. Kelly came closer still six minutes before the break when Graham Gartland flicked on a ball from the left and Ryan tipped the striker’s header onto the crossbar.
But it was a goalkeeping error at the other end that finally provided the opening goal. With 44 minutes played Brian Shortall’s attempted clearance only found Chris Forrester who was given space to shoot from 25 yards. The moving ball deceived Ger Hanley who got down low to block but allowed the spin to carry the ball over his head and into the net.
After the break it took just four minutes for Pats to extend their lead. Killian Brennan floated in a corner that Forrester headed down to the feet of former Shelbourne man Conan Byrne, who swivelled on the ball to shoot home from close range.
Things were about to get even worse for Shels and on 54 minutes Killian Brennan flicked a quick free to Forrester wide on the left. The midfielder took a touch before curling a magnificent shot over the despairing figure of Hanley and into the top right corner of the visitor’s goal.
Pats almost made it four on the hour mark when Conan Byrne ran on to O’Brien’s through ball and almost looped a delicate shot over Hanley, but the keeper recovered to execute a superb tip-over. Within a minute Pats had the ball in the net, Brennan heading home Bolger’s cross cum shot, but this time the linesman’s flag came to the visitor’s rescue.
With the result no longer in question the intensity of the game understandably dipped but Pats might have scored again with twenty minutes remaining when Flood broke through the centre only to see Hanley pull off a fine save from his low shot. Gartland then blocked Forrester’s follow up allowing Flood a second bite at the cherry which Hanley saved again, this time beating the ball away from the butt of his near post.
Conan Byrne was then inches from getting his second of the game when he slid in on the goal-line but just missed Russell’s cross, and Hanley made another fine save at the feet of substitute Christy Fagan as Pats continued to press forwards.
A fourth was inevitable and it came after 82 minutes when Conan Byrne’s corner travelled all the way through to Forrester was was lurking on the left. He was always going to try his luck from that position and a relatively tame effort snuck past an un-sighted Ger Hanley.
The jubilant home crowd thought Forrester had bagged his fourth five minutes from time when he again sent a curling shot from the left into the far corner of the Shels net but Conan Byrne, in an off-side position, had gotten a slight touch and Mathews’ men were reprieved once again by the linesman’s flag.
The final whistle saw the home fans celebrate their team’s best performance of the season while the away support were left to wonder how bad things will get before they get better.
St Patrick’s Athletic: Dave Ryan; Ger O’Brien, Conor Kenna, Kenny Browne (Jake Carroll 75), Ian Bermingham; Conan Byrne, John Russell, Greg Bolger (Stephen Maher 83), Killian Brennan, Chris Forrester; Anto Flood (Christy Fagan 72).
Subs not used: Pat Jennings, Sean Gannon, Jordan Keegan, Conor Murphy.
Bookings: Russell (36), Bolger (68).
Shelbourne: Ger Hanley; Pat Flynn, Brian Shortall, Graham Gartland, Jack Memery; Stephen Hurley, Paul Crowley, Robert Bayly, Sean Brennan (Alex Prizeman 64); Dean Kelly, Philly Hughes.
Subs not used: Niall Burdon, Ian Ryan, Craig Mooney, Darren Tinnelly, Adam Hanlon, Mark Leech.
Bookings: Memery (26), Shortall (66).
Referee: Derek Tomney.
Extratime Man of the Match: Killian Brennan (St Patrick’s Athletic).