Super-sub Shane McFaul sealed all three points for Liam Buckley’s St Patrick’s Athletic side as seven minutes after coming on he smashed the ball past Gabriel Sava for the only goal of the game at Richmond Park on Friday night. It was a deserved win for The Saints as they pressed from the first minute to the last, with Drogheda defenders Shane Grimes and Michael Daly given a torrid time in their respective full back positions.
The breakthrough came on 65 minutes when initially Christy Fagan was allowed into the Drogheda box and he fired low forcing Sava to get down low and palm the behind his far post. Conan Byrne had been delivering pin point crosses from the right all night and he sent the ball right into the heart of the box which was headed point blank at Sava. This resulted in a scramble in the box and the ball rebounded to McFaul who powered it home from close range.
Drogheda just couldn’t manage an equaliser. Manager Mick Cooke made two changes four minutes later to try and wake a very lethargic Louth side, while Liam Buckley urged his side to press on and add to their advantage. It all started brightly for the visitors though; two minutes in they had won a corner, but a training ground move failed to work and Pat’s cleared the danger. From then on the Saints took control.
Alan Byrne slipped in the box allowing Fagan a free header from eight yards out but he angled his shot wide of the far post soon after, while eight minutes in Declan O’Brien was carded for bringing down Ian Bermingham on the edge of the Drogheda box as the Boynesiders defence couldn’t cope with the pressure.
Three minutes later and another Byrne slip should have been punished by Fagan. Ger O’Brien made a great run on the right before releasing John Russell who beat Grimes to the byline and pulled the ball back for Fagan who was in acres of space, but he failed to control the ball and it deflected into the hands of a relieved Sava.
Sixty seconds later and the Drogheda keeper was forced into another save from Killian Brennan, the former Shamrock Rovers player kept his effort low and on target but couldn’t beat the Italian.
It was 16 minutes before Drogheda registered a shot, new signing Paul O’Conor was played through by Gary O’Neill but he was forced wide and in the end the angle was too much and it was an easy save for Brendan Clarke.
Midfield was the real battle ground for the two sides but Pats were the dominant force. Chris Forrester worked tirelessly and was almost rewarded when he slipped round the outside of Daly on the byline but his shot was headed behind by Derek Prendergast. Brennan pulled the strings and constantly threatened to release the waiting Fagan. His set-piece deliveries were always a threat and he looks to be a real key player for Buckley’s team.
Pat’s had the ball in the net on 37 minutes but Kenny Browne was marginally offside. Drogheda were lucky to go into the break still on level terms, but the restart showed little change in the game’s direction as Pats came out all guns blazing.
However, against the run of play Drogheda almost stole an opener. Eric Foley muscled himself onto the ball and was instantly through, but he released Gary O’Neill and then drifted wide for the return pass, too wide, as Kenny Browne had time to get back and he cut out the return pass from O’Neill.
Pat’s never looked like giving up a goal once going ahead, Brendan Clarke had very little to do on his 50th league appearance. Cooke threw on Peter Hynes in place of Grimes late on to push for a leveller, but if anything Pat’s always looked like getting a second. With five minutes to go John Russell whipped the ball to the back post and Prendergast just managed to nick the ball off Fagan’s foot and get it behind.
The pitch helped neither team, but Pats coped better in the poor conditions as Drogheda tried to play a possession game that just didn’t work. The Boynesiders next league outing is a visit from Limerick while Pat’s make the short trip to Shamrock Rovers.
St. Patrick’s Athletic: Brendan Clarke: Ger O’Brien, Connor Kenna, Kenny Browne (Jake Carroll 92), Ian Bermingham; Conan Byrne, John Russell, Greg Bolger (Shane McFaul 58), Chris Forrester, Killian Brennan; Christy Fagan.
Subs not used: Patrick Jennings, Aidan Price, Anthony Flood, Jordan Keegan, Conor Murphy
Bookings: Greg Bolger, Ger O’Brien
Drogheda United: Gabriel Sava; Michael Daly (Brian Gannon 69), Alan Byrne, Derek Prendergast, Shane Grimes (Peter Hynes 81); Declan O’Brien (Graham Rusk 69), Ryan Brennan, Paul O’Conor, Gavin Brennan, Eric Foley; Gary O’Neill.
Subs not used: Michael Schlingermann, Philip Hand, Jason Marks, Stephen Quigley.
Bookings: Declan O’Brien, Shane Grimes.
Referee: Alan Kelly.
Extratime Man of the Match: Killian Brennan (St Pats).
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.