A Christy Fagan goal deep in added time finally saw off the spirited challenge of Bray Wanderers as St Patrick’s Athletic extended their lead at the top of the league table to six points at the Carlisle Grounds on Thursday night.
It took the league leaders 37 minutes to break through the Bray defence in a game that had failed to inspire a healthy crowd at the Carlisle Grounds. But, towards the end of an opening half in which neither side created many openings, Killian Brennan provided the ball that found its way to Anto Flood who took a touch before drilling his shot past Darren Quigley in the Bray goal.
The game was slow to come to life although Ismahil Akinade looked to have broken through the Pats defence as early as the sixth minute when he latched onto a deflected ball and slid his shot past Brendan Clarke but beyond the far post. The linesman’s flag ensured that had his effort been accurate it wouldn’t have counted.
Pats played the more measured passing game but it lacked bite and they seldom made their way through a resolute Bray defence, while Bray played themselves into the game as it matured and managed to generate a few half chances themselves.
Pats didn’t really threaten the home goal until the 24th minute when Killian Brennan span a delightful free kick just inches over the bar after Daryl Kavanagh had been crudely upended by Dean Zambra. And Conan Byrne wasn’t too far away with another low struck free from 35 yards on 35 minutes.
Two minutes later Pats went ahead through Flood and they might have added a second within sixty seconds when John Russell headed Conan Byrne’s cross just past the back post.
Jason Byrne might have tested Clarke in the pats goal just before half time when he got on the end of a long throw from the right but his fiercely hit effort was well off target.
Pats began the second half at a higher tempo than we had seen up to that point and the result was a series of decent chances in the five minutes immediately after the restart. Darren Quigley got down well to save a low shot from Russell and then had to be sharp to deny Kavanagh from the rebound.
Moments later Russell fed Anto Flood who saw his curling shot tipped around the post by the Bray keeper and Russell headed just wide from the resulting corner. Then, on 51 minutes, Killian Brennan released Flood and his shot bounced up off Quigley only for Ian Bermingham to head well wide.
Bray did manage to stem the tide but created little themselves at that point, Ismahil Akinade delivering a decent ball from the right that no Bray player was on hand to finish. Pat Devlin introduced John Mulroy and Kevin Knight but on 67 minutes Pats got the reward their more focused second half performance deserved.
Anto Flood back-heeled the ball to Bermingham and his floated cross to the back post found John Russell who headed inside the post to make it 2-0 to the Saints.
With fifteen minutes to play Mulroy almost got Bray back into it with a curling shot from distance that just cleared the angle of post and bar and the final stages featured end to end football with chances and goals for both teams.
Daryl Kavanagh set up Fagan for a shot that Dave Webster blocked on 77 minutes and a quick free released Fagan two minutes later only for Quigley to get a vital touch and prevent the goal. Then, with seven minutes to play, Ismahil Akinade ensured an enthralling finale when he picked up Knight’s pass and finished coolly past Clarke.
Shane O’Connor produced a saving tackle on Fagan after he skipped past Quigley wide on the right and Bray, emboldened, pressed for an equaliser, Mulroy being denied by an excellent Clarke save.
In the dying seconds of added time, and with the Pats fans baying for the final whistle, Fagan picked up Kavanagh’s pass on the edge of the Bray box and fired home a superb shot to decide the tie.
Bray Wanderers: Darren Quigley; Dave Webster, Shane O’Connor, Danny O’Connor (Daire Doyle 88), Conor Earley; Ismahil Akinade, Kevin O’Connor, Dean Zambra, Gary Dempsey (John Mulroy 63), Kieran Marty Waters; Jason Byrne (Kevin Knight 63).
Subs not used: Shane Redmond, Niall Cooney, Adam Mitchell, Kevin Maher.
Booked: S O’Connor (34), D O’Connor (50).
St Patrick’s Athletic: Brendan Clarke; Ger O’Brien, Conor Kenna, Aidan Price, Ian Bermingham; Conan Byrne (Chris Forrester 68), John Russell, Greg Bolger, Killian Brennan, Daryl Kavanagh; Anto Flood (Christy Fagan 76).
Subs not used: Rene Gilmartin, Lorcan Fitzgerald, Sean Gannon Jake Kelly, Sean Hoare.
Booked: C Byrne (8), Flood (54), Kavanagh (87).
Referee: Neil Doyle.
Attendance: 900 (estimate).
Extratime Man of the Match: Daryl Kavanagh (St Pats Ath).