Pat’s make giant leap

AIRTRICITY PREMIER LEAGUE:

Pat’s make giant leap

St Patrick’s Athletic, who last won the league in 2002, duly took a big step towards replicating that achievement in 2013 with this thoroughly deserved two-goal victory over their closest rivals Dundalk.

To complete a miserable night for the visitors, Stephen Kenny’s side finished the game with 10 men after Stephen O’Donnell was sent off but, by then, Pat’s were already firmly in control of the game thanks to second-half goals from Chris Forrester and Daryl Kavanagh.

In a white hot atmosphere, there were flares in the stands and, right from the off, the threat of a flare-up on the pitch as a series of full-blooded tackles left players on both sides dumped on the turf.

In keeping with the frantic tempo of the opening phase, a surging early run up the right and into the box from Airtricity Player of the Month Richie Towell offered Dundalk their first glimmer of a chance, but Pats’ John Russell got back in the nick of time to cut out the midfielder’s ball across the face of goal at the expense of a corner. At the other end, the home side had their first effort 11 minutes in but Killian Brennan’s long-range effort flew straight into the arms of the veteran Peter Cherrie.

As Pat’s began to get their passing game going and upped the pressure on the Dundalk rearguard, Brennan couldn’t do much better from an inviting free kick on the edge of the box but, with the ever inventive Daryl Kavanagh an increasing influence in dictating the play, the home side were edging the contest as the first half-hour flashed by in the blink of an eye.

With just two minutes to go to the break, however, it was Dundalk who almost fashioned the breakthrough, a clever Pat Hoban flick over the top sending Towell through on goal only for the midfielder to snatch at the chance and direct his angled shot tamely at the relieved Brendan Clarke.

Then, just six minutes after the restart, it was the home side who took the lead. Killian Brennan stroked a free kick wide to Ger O’Brien and, from his superb cross, the unmarked Chris Forrester sent a textbook downward header back across goal to beat the dive of Cherrie and send the Richmond Park faithful into raptures.

It looked like it might be the goal the game needed to loosen up a tightly-fought battle and, sure enough, it took Pat’s only another seven minutes to put clear air between themselves and their rivals.

A throw-in on the right was cleverly headed back into the path of Conan Byrne by Anto Flood and when Byrne in turn picked out Kavanagh on the far side of the box, the man of the match finished beautifully with a rising left-footed drive into the far top corner.

Pats’ second had come in the 58th minute which meant the visitors still had plenty of time in which to try and mount a comeback but, though Stephen Kenny sought to freshen things up by turning to his bench, things went from bad to worse for Dundalk in the 78th minute when O’Donnell was sent off after a two-handed shove on Ger O’Brien right under the nose of referee Tom Connolly.

Tempers were generally running a bit ragged as the game entered its closing phase but Pat’s kept their cool and kept their lead to go clear at the top with only five games to go in the title race.

ST PATRICK’S ATHLETIC: Clarke, O’Brien, Kenna, Browne, Birmingham, Brennan, Russell, Forrester, Byrne (Gannon 68), Flood, Kavanagh (Kelly 80).

DUNDALK: Cherrie, Rossiter, Gartland, Boyle, Massey, Dillon (Sullivan 65), O’Donnell, Towell, Mountney (Faherty 60), Hoban, Byrne (Mulvenna 81).

Referee: Tom Connolly (Dublin)

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