Simon Madden scored a dramatic equaliser deep into injury time as St Patrick’s Athletic snatched an unlikely point from Cork City. Karl Sheppard’s delightful second-half goal looked to have set City on course for victory in a turgid game that, for almost an hour, had failed to yield a shot on target.
That was just City’s second goal from open play this season, all the rest bar Gearóid Morrissey’s stunner at Finn Harps originating with set-pieces. Still, it looked like it was enough to earn City a fourth win in six under interim boss John Cotter before Madden finished expertly at the death.
Manager Harry Kenny made two changes to the side beaten at the death in Dundalk last week as Cian Coleman and Chris Forrester came in for Jamie Lennon and Rhys McCabe. Cotter opted to make just one change from the side comfortably beaten by Shamrock Rovers, with Shane Griffin replacing Daire O’Connor.
The luckless Griffin would last just seven minutes before making way for O’Connor after falling awkwardly in defending a dangerous ball into the City box. The game had already been halted for a head injury to Gary Shaw after he clashed heads with Seán McLoughlin, and the stop-start nature did little to encourage free-flowing football.
Neither did either side, in truth, and it took until the 22nd minute for the first proper chance as centre-back David Webster got forward on the right and swung in a deep cross. It held up perfectly for top scorer Mikey Drennan to attack, but the striker couldn’t make contact under tight supervision from City defender Conor McCarthy.
The visitors’ first real threat came courtesy of McCarthy as he met Kevin O’Connor’s corner with his head, but Brendan Clarke caught the ball comfortably at his near post. Shaw was forced off ten minutes from the break when he got another bang to the head, the medics seeing more action than either goalkeeper, and McLoughlin was booked.
Daire O’Connor similarly failed to work the goalkeeper to any significant degree when he dropped a shoulder to shoot, but his low curling effort trickled well past the post. Sheppard was played in by Tilley and, from a tight angle, his shot was blocked by Clarke and, with Daire O’Connor about to pounce on the loose ball, Webster hooked clear.
A neat passage of play saw Chris Forrester – who had hitherto struggled to get involved – find Drennan and he laid off for Madden. The full-back bent an inviting cross towards substitute Jake Walker, but McCarthy did brilliantly not only to clear with his head but win the free-kick in the process.
Walker got on the end of another slick passing move and unselfishly teed up Drennan, but his weak shot was blocked when he should have at least worked Mark McNulty. Drennan had an appeal for a penalty waved away when he was played through by captain Ian Bermingham, referee Ben Connolly rightly ruling it to be a stumble.
And Kevin Toner registered the Saints first shot on target with almost the last kick of the half, his well-struck shot always rising and crashing off the roof of the shed behind the goal. Pat’s began the second half brightly and Walker glanced a Bermingham cross past the post, before Tilley curled wide at the other end.
City took the lead nine minutes into the second half as Garry Buckley skinned Ciaran Kelly out wide and his low cross was skilfully flicked home by Sheppard. The visitors continued to come forward and Clarke did brilliantly to deny Kevin O’Connor a second before Buckley and Daire O’Connor both missed the target.
The home side laid siege to an increasingly deep-sitting Cork side and it paid off when Madden rippled the net with a fantastic low volley from Walker’s header.
Brendan Clarke; David Webster, Kevin Toner, Ciaran Kelly; Simon Madden, Cian Coleman, Darragh Markey (James Doona 77), Chris Forrester (Jamie Lennon 70), Ian Bermingham; Mikey Drennan, Gary Shaw (Jake Walker 35).
Mark McNulty; Colm Horgan, Sean McLoughlin, Conor McCarthy, Kevin O’Connor; Conor McCormack, Gearíóid Morrissey, Garry Buckley; James Tilley (Cian Bargary 90+2), Shane Griffin (Daire O’Connor 11), Karl Sheppard.