Drogheda United and St Pats played out an entertaining scoreless draw at Richmond Park as Pats have seen their lead at the top cut to just a single point, but they have a game in hand over their nearest challengers Dundalk.
Pats had new signing Daryl Kavanagh on the bench as Mick Cooke kept faith with Michael Schlingermann in goal. Paul O’Conor dropped to the bench along with Gary O’Neill as Cooke opted for a 4-1-4-1 formation, with Peter Hynes as the lone striker.
Pats began in their confident and composed style, as befits a team who are leading the league, but also unbeaten in 8 games at home. Ger O’Brien had the first chance of the game, but the full back hit his shot high and over.
The Boynesiders plan was clear from the start, to pack the box, however on 14 minutes Anto Flood found a way through, but his acrobatic shot was too high.
Killian Brennan, as he normally does against the Louth sides, played with a real purpose, the Drogheda native roved across the centre of the pitch for the entire game.
The last time the sides met, it was Brennan who scored a 93rd minute penalty, a penalty that never was, but on 20 mins John Russell and Derek Prendergast collided in the box and Derek Tomney waved play on as Pats rightly felt aggrieved, in fact a minute later he awarded Pats a free on the edge of the box for the exact same foul, consistency was not apparent in Tomney’s performance.
In a rare foray forward, Drogheda had their first real chance on 24 minutes, Graham Rusk floated a ball to the back post for Cassidy to volley low at Brendan Clarke, but the Pats keeper had all his angles covered.
Minutes later, Conan Byrne threatened before Killian Brennan forced a save from Schlingermann, the ball rebounded to Byrne whose volley hit the outside of the post.
The visitors almost scored right on half-time as an ever alert Graham Rusk stole onto a loose pass and beat Ian Bermingham down the right before cutting back in and crossing, Peter Hynes threw his head to the ball but couldn’t direct it goalwards.
With the pressure mounting on Pats, Drogheda started the second half the more confident side, with players pushing up more, Aidan Price played a sloppy pass to John Russell and Rusk again capilatised on loose play, he tried to set up Hynes but the striker ran straight into Kenny Browne.
Killian was denied by brother Ryan just after the hour mark, Conan Byrne’s corner was headed goalward but with Drogheda midfielder was in the right position to clear. Ryan himself was then denied by Brendan Clarke.
Pats brought on Christy Fagan and he seemed to reviatlise their flagging attack, with 11 minutes remaining, despite the protests of the Drogheda defence, he looked to have beaten the offside trap but his shot was tipped away by Schlingermann.
The fourth official showed five minutes of stoppage time, yet Pats rarely deviated from their slow build-up play, so much so that with only two minutes left they were sauntering over to take a throw-in.
Drogheda travel to Derry on Monday night in the hope of making back-to-back EA Sports Cup finals while Pats travel to Tallaght in a game which could make or break Shamrock Rovers title hopes.
St Patrick’s Athletic: Brendan Clarke; Ger O’Brien, Kenny Browne, Aidan Price, Ian Bermingham; Conan Byrne (Daryl Kavanagh, 90), John Russell, Greg Bolger, Killian Brennan, Christopher Forrester (Jake Kelly, 80); Anthony Flood (Christy Fagan, 70).
Subs not used: Rene Gilmartin, Sean Gannon, Conor Kenna, Stephen Maher.
Bookings: Bolger (16), K Brennan (25), Russell (87), Browne (90+4).
Drogheda United: Michael Schlingermann; Mick Daly, Derek Prendergast, Alan McNally, Shane Grimes; Graham Rusk, Ryan Brennan, David Cassidy (Declan O’Brien, 74), Alan Byrne, Gavin Brennan; Peter Hynes (Gary O’Neill, 61).
Subs not used: Gabriel Sava, Philip Hand, Paul O’Conor, Cathal Brady, Jason Marks.
Bookings: Grimes (8), Prendergast (84).
Referee: Derek Tomney.
Extratime Man of the Match: Graham Rusk (Drogheda United).
P.J. generally covers Drogheda games at HD Park and can generally be found at any Dublin ground when of a loose end on a Friday night.