Colman Stanley reports from Richmond Park
There was a lively atmosphere at Richmond Park tonight where Shamrock Rovers downed St. Patrick’s Athletic with a comfortable two-nil win.
Rovers controlled most of the first half and were rewarded when Greg Bolger scored on the stroke of half time, before Sean Kavanagh slotted home a free-kick early in the second to secure all three points.
The Saints were aiming to continue their good run of form following two wins on the bounce, and gain points on Derry City who occupy the final Europa League Qualifying spot.
With the Hoops having not won since May 24th, the derby was laced with extra pressure for the away side as they attempted to stay within touching distance of league leaders Dundalk.
There was an intense atmosphere at the game and it was reflected on the pitch in the opening minutes, however both sides struggled to create any clear cut chances, with it taking until the 20th minute for either side to have any threatening attempts on goal.
Trevor Clarke firstly struck from 20 yards which forced Brendan Clarke to dive low and parry the ball out for a corner.
Immediately after, Pats countered. Rovers tried to clear but Chris Forrester picked up a loose ball and played it into Mikey Drennan.
The striker’s angle was tight but he probably should have done better and Alan Mannus was able to save easily.
It would be the best chance the home side would get for most of the game as the Hoops dominated the second quarter of the match.
Despite a constant wave of pressure, Pats managed to keep Rovers to just a few half chances, and looked like they would survive until half-time.
It was not to be however as former Pats star Greg Bolger stepped up to give the away side a deserved lead.
Jack Byrne, who had been controlling the midfield, found Bolger on the edge of the box, and he managed to glide past a couple of defenders and slot past Clarke.
The Saints began the second half strongly and had some good early pressure. But it was Rovers on their first attack of the half who would increase their lead.
Dylan Watts was fouled on the edge of the box by Jamie Lennon, and Sean Kavanagh stepped up to take the free-kick.
His low curling shot managed to avoid all of the bodies in the box and found the bottom right hand corner as Brendan Clarke was left helpless.
It was a poor half from then on. Pats dominated possession but were unable to create anything of note apart from a goal-mouth scramble late on which forced Alan Mannus into making a good save to clear any danger. Rovers were happy to sit back and catch Pats on the counter and saw out the game easily.
The Hoops handled the pressure well and in the end it was a comfortable victory which sees them remain in the title race while Pats showed that they certainly are still a work in progress.
St. Patrick's Athletic: Brendan Clarke; Ian Bermingham, Lee Desmond, Jamie Lennon, Simon Madden, Kevin Toner; Conor Clifford (Rhys McCabe 28), Cian Coleman, Chris Forrester (James Doona 67); Michael Drennan, Jake Walker (Dean Clarke 45).
Subs not used: Dean Clarke, Paul Cleary, Darragh Markey, Barry Murphy, Gary Shaw.
Booked: Chris Forrester (64).
Shamrock Rovers: Alan Mannus; Greg Bolger, Lee Grace, Roberto Lopes, Joey O'Brien; Ronan Finn (Brandon Kavanagh 67), Trevor Clarke, Jack Byrne, Sean Kavanagh, Dylan Watts (Thomas Oluwa 85); Daniel Carr (Aaron Greene 45).
Subs not used: Ethan Boyle, James Furlong, Leon Pohls.
Booked: Greg Bolger (72).
Referee: Graham Kelly.
ExtraTime.ie Player of the Match: Jack Byrne (Shamrock Rovers).