Niall Newberry reports from Richmond Park
A relentless Dundalk side regained their eight point advantage at the top of the SSE Airtricity League table after beating St Patrick's Athletic 1-0 in a sunny Inchicore on Saturday evening.
John Mountney’s strike six mintues into the second half was all that could separate the sides in what was a cagey affair.
St. Pat’s made just one change from their 3-0 defeat at Bohemians last weekend with right-back Simon Madden, who was suffering with illness, dropping to the bench in place of David Webster.
With their upcoming trip to Baku in mind, Dundalk rang the changes, making eight from their Champions League first-leg draw with Qarabag at Oriel Park last Wednesday – Gary Rogers, Chris Shields and Patrick McEleney were the only survivors from that draw with Azerbaijan’s finest.
The hosts had the game’s first chance of note after six minutes when Dean Clarke whipped in a cross from the right, but Michael Drennan couldn’t get anything on it as the ball bobbled away to safety.
Drennan had the first effort on target as well as his free-kick went straight into the arms of Rogers.
Following that early bit of pressure from the Saints, the visitors started to grow into this match and they began to dominate possession before having their first big chance after 20 minutes had elapsed.
It came when Dean Jarvis sent a cross in from the left that was met at the back post by John Mountney’s first-time volley, but goalkeeper Brendan Clarke was equal to the Mayo man’s effort.
Dundalk continued to press and after St Pats had failed to clear their lines, McEleney worked himself into some space before delicately chipping straight into Clarke’s arms instead of the top-right corner.
The remainder of the first half was something of a damp squib, with neither side really threatening to make the breakthrough, although Sean Murray’s corner had to be well cleared by Webster.
That was after Conor Clifford’s dangerous cross was gathered by Rogers as Drennan was in waiting.
Dundalk came out of the blocks early in the second period and McEleney was very much the creative spark this match badly needed. He weaved some magic in the box before Georgie Kelly headed wide.
The Lilywhites then took the lead seconds later when McEleney again showed tremendous skill to break once again before pulling the ball back for Mountney, who fired home his sixth of the season.
Clifford’s attempt from distance, which sailed well over is about as good as it got for Pats after that.
Vinny Perth’s side went in search of a second and substitute Jamie McGrath saw his shot bobble into Clarke’s arms and Murray’s free-kick curled just over the top as we approached the final 15 minutes.
There wasn't a whole lot to report after that, although Drennan picked up two yellow cards in quick succession late on to be sent early to the dressingroom before Shields, rather audaciously, skied his shot well over the top from distance.
Dundalk can switch their full focus back to the Champions League and all roads now lead to Baku…
St Patrick’s Athletic:vBrendan Clarke; David Webster, Lee Desmond, Ciaran Kelly, Kevin Toner, Ian Bermingham (James Doona 73); Darragh Markey, Jamie Lennon (Chris Forrester 74), Conor Clifford (Cian Coleman 81); Dean Clarke, Michael Drennan.
Subs not used:vBarry Murphy (gk), Simon Madden, Jake Walker, Gary Shaw.
Booked:vConor Clifford (35), David Webster (60), Chris Forrester (74), Michael Drennan (86 and 87).
Sent off: Michael Drennan (87).
Dundalk: Gary Rogers; Cameron Dummigan, Brian Gartland, Daniel Cleary, Dean Jarvis; Chris Shields, Sean Murray (Michael Duffy 80); Daniel Kelly (Jamie McGrath 64), John Mountney, Patrick McEleney; Georgie Kelly (Patrick Hoban 73).
Subs not used: Aaron McCarey (gk), Sean Gannon, Sean Hoare, Dane Massey.
Referee: Robert Hennessy.
Extratime.ie Man of the Match: Patrick McEleney (Dundalk).