This was scrappy, tense and far from impressive. But it was exactly what Shamrock Rovers needed as they steadied any jitters that may have crept in following back-to-back defeats to the two sides closest to them in what’s gearing up to be an enthralling title race.
Bohemians and Dundalk both had the better of Rovers last week, and their respective wins last night kept the pressure on at the top of the table.
Ronan Finn’s excellently-worked goal was all that was needed here to edge out St Patrick’s Athletic and maintain the Hoops’ four-point cushion, and the irony of it won’t have been lost on their manager, Harry Kenny.
While his two strikers — Mikey Drennan and Gary Shaw — failed to strike up any sort of partnership to allow the visitors pose a threat in the final third, sublime link play broke the deadlock at the other end.
It was the decisive moment of the night and the result of quick thinking from Brandon Kavanagh and Ronan Finn. Right full-back Joey O’Brien started it off with a sharp pass into his central midfielder, who then laid it off to Kavanagh, who in turn swiftly teed up Finn in the centre of goal, just ahead of the penalty spot.
The Pat’s defence didn’t know what had hit it, such was the pace of the move, and the veteran coolly placed his finish past Brendan Clarke into the bottom left corner.
It was the one bit of quality from either side on a night that failed ignite — although there was plenty of passion in the stands from both sets of fans.
The Saints faithful made the short trip across Dublin buoyed by three wins on the bounce but, in truth, their team played in hope rather than expectation.
Ian Bermingham’s long range shot caused more of a threat to the Square Shopping Centre than it did Alan Mannus’ goal and his 64th minute header was also easily collected by the former Northern Ireland international.
The introduction of Chris Forrester in the 50th minute — following a suspected concussion for Rhys McCabe — provided Pat’s with some impetus but they failed to properly capitalise. Indeed, just a few moments after his arrival Roberto Lopes should have put the game to bed with a free header from Jack Byrne’s inviting free kick.
It was off target, though, just as substitute Dan Carr was with a skied shot in the box with a quarter of an hour remaining. Aaron Greene struck the post with a tame looping header from a corner before Pat’s sub Dean Clarke forced a fine save from Mannus.
A better side would have made Rovers pay for their profligacy as their title tilt got back on track.
Mannus; O’Brien, Grace, Lopes, T Clarke; Bolger, McEneff; Kavanagh (Carr 63), Finn, Byrne (Watts 87); Greene (Vojic 80).
ST PATRICK’S ATHLETIC:
B Clarke; Webster, Kelly, Desmond; Madden, Markey, Lennon, McCabe (Forrester 52), Bermingham (Doona 85); Drennan, Shaw (D Clarke 77).
B Connolly (Dublin).