Jake Walker 83' -
Colamn Stanley reports from Richmond Park
St. Patrick’s Athletic ran out 1-0 winners against a frustrated Finn Harps side at Richmond Park.
Substitute Jake Walker gave his side the win with a late goal in the 82nd minute, after some quick counter-attacking by Pats.
It was a wet night with both sides facing their own separate battles.
With league ambitions just a distant memory at this stage of the season, the home side were looking to put pressure on fourth placed Derry City, in the battle for the final Europa League qualifying spot.
Pats were missing midfielder Jamie Lennon, who is currently playing for Ireland u-21s at the Toulon Tournament, and Dave Webster through suspension, but welcomed back Lee Desmond and Conor Clifford who were back after injury lay-offs.
Finn Harps continued their relegation battle with UCD, with every point worth more than its weight in gold at the bottom of the table.
Harps had a long injury list coming into the game but welcomed back top scorer Caolan McAleer and Sean Boyd to the squad, after they had served their one match suspensions.
The home side started the game in quick fashion with Forrester heading over the bar in the 2nd minute from a Simon Madden cross.
A minute later there was a goalmouth scramble with Mikey Drennan and Gary Shaw both having shots blocked. Again a Madden cross instigated the chance.
Soon after, Ian Bermingham headed over after a quality cross from Mikey Drennan.
Despite the home side’s rapid start, it was Harps who would have the best chance of the half through Nathan Boyle.
Raffaele Cretaro picked the ball up deep in the Pats half before conjuring a deftly weighted through-ball to split the defence and play in Boyle for a 1-on-1 with Brendan Clarke.
Clarke was out very quickly to smother Boyle’s shot but the striker should probably have given his side an unexpected lead.
Chances were few and far between for the rest of the half. Mikey Drennan had the best of the bunch when his free-header was straight at McGinley. Madden again played the role of provider.
As the second half played out Pats were the dominant side, but could only muster half chances through Cian Coleman, Kevin Toner, and Forrester, with the home crowd growing very frustrated.
It was Harps again, against the run of play, with the best chance of the half.
Michael Place was played into the box and found space for a shot after some silky footwork. Clarke bailed out his side again by saving Place’s poor effort. Pats then managed to get a foot on Nathan Boyle’s follow up effort.
From the resulting corner the ball fell to Daniel O’Reilly but his shot was bravely blocked by Toner.
The away side would come to rue those misses as Pats finally broke the deadlock in the 83rd minute, through substitute Jake Walker.
A brilliant ball from Lee Desmond was played down the right and Dean Clarke did very well to sprint onto it.
His low cross found Walker un-marked in the box and the home fans held their breath as his half-scuffed shot trickled past Mark McGinley and went in off the post.
Pats dominated the rest of the game and Drennan nearly made it two when his shot from a tight angle rocketed off the cross-bar.
Harps did have free-kick in a dangerous position deep into stoppage time, but Captain Keith Cowan was unable to direct his shot at the back post towards goal.
Pats ran out deserved winners, but would have wanted to bump their recent trend of low scoring games and added a second.
Harps face a reflective journey back to Donegal after a game which they will definitely feel they should have gotten more out of.
St. Patrick's Athletic: Brendan Clarke; Ian Bermingham, Lee Desmond, Ciaran Kelly, Simon Madden, Kevin Toner; Cian Coleman, Chris Forrester (Dean Clarke 76), Rhys McCabe (Conor Clifford 23); Michael Drennan, Gary Shaw (Jake Walker 61).
Subs not used: Paul Cleary, James Doona, Darragh Markey, Barry Murphy.
Sent off: None.
Finn Harps: Mark McGinley; Keith Cowan, Colm Deasy, Daniel O'Reilly, Sam Todd; Gareth Harkin, Tony McNamee (Caolan McAleer 87), Mikey Place, Mark Russell; Nathan Boyle (Sean Boyd 82), Raffaele Cretaro (Mark Timlin 71).
Subs not used: Harry Ascroft, Peter Burke, Niall Logue, Liam Walsh.
Sent off: None.
Referee: Neil Doyle.
ExtraTime.ie Player of the Match: Cian Coleman.