The managerial regime may have changed at Tolka Park but an all too familiar second half implosion saw Shelbourne slump to a 3-0 defeat to St. Patrick’s Athletic on Friday night.
Two second half goals from Pat’s striker Christy Fagan and a third from star man Chris Forrester condemned Shelbourne to yet another home defeat and pushed Pat’s level on points with Sligo Rovers at the top of the Airtricity League.
The Shels fans in the New Stand were in high spirits early on, no doubt satisfied by the ousting of their unpopular former boss.
The home team responded with an energetic opening 25 minutes. They pressed and harried the in-form Inchicore outfit relentlessly early on with only their precision in the final third letting them down.
On 10 minutes, Sheerin’s pinpoint crossfield ball found Mooney at the edge of the box. He laid it back to the oncoming Brennan and his powerful shot whisked wide.
Moments later, after a long and rather hopeful punt from Graham Gartland, Pat’s centre-half Kenny Browne badly misjudged the flight of the ball in the air almost allowing Mark Leech to seize on the opportunity but Brendan Clarke in the Pat’s goal was extremely quick to react and slid in to claim the ball as the Shels winger was about to pounce.
Pat’s carved out little in the first half hour with all their methodical prompting producing just a single half-opening for Christy Fagan on 27 minutes. Neat inter-play from Forrester and Bolger saw the ball threaded through to Fagan however the striker, starved of chances before then, snapped at the shot shanking it wide.
However, Pat’s perked up a bit after the first half-hour, with their slicker and more assured passing seeing them come to the fore, monopolising possession without ever truly opening up the home side. Greg Bolger, in particular, was an ocean of calm in the middle, with his composure helping set the tempo for the visitors.
A relatively-incident free first half demonstrated the two sides’ contrasting styles. Shels bombed forward frantically, their attacks tending to burn themselves out in a matter of seconds whereas the more confident Pat’s passed the ball around at their leisure albeit in front of the Shels defence.
Somewhat encouraged by the opening 45, the Shels supporters greeted the half-time whistle with a grateful roar.
The second half proved altogether different.
Pats took the lead on the 53rd minute with a wonderfully worked goal. Pat’s raided down the left with the ever dangerous Forrester stabbed the ball into the overlapping Ian Bermingham who whipped in a magnificent cross which Fagan expertly steered home with a glancing header.
Six minutes later, Gartland was robbed in defence by Fagan, who laid the ball into the path of the rapidly advancing Russell. The Pat’s striker slid the ball low into the danger area. The onrushing Conan Byrne turned the ball goalwards. The shot was blocked by Hanley in the Shels goal but he only succeeded in parrying the ball into the ultra-sharp Fagan who slid the ball home to make it 2-0 just before the hour
After that it became a question of how many as, in keeping with their form all season, the home side wilted badly.
With 12 minutes remaining Pat’s made it 3-0. A superbly struck 30 yard free-kick from Brennan was tipped over by Ger Hanley. From the resulting corner, the looping ball succeeded in clearing all but the waiting Chris Forrester at the far post who had the easiest of tasks to nod the ball home.
To top off a calamitous night for the home side, Shels full back Jack Memery was sent off for a dangerous high challenge on Ger O’Brien.
The relative high spirits of early in the game disappeared to be replaced by disconsolate faces and ironical cheers.
“There’s only one Alan Mathews!” the Pat’s fans chanted as the game reached its end.
Shelbourne: Ger Hanley, Rob Cornwall, Pat Flynn, Graham Gartland, Jack Memery, Ian Ryan, Sean Brennan, Mark Leech (Philly Hughes, 60), Alex Prizeman (Darren Tinnelly, 78), Stephen Sheerin, Craig Mooney (Dean Kelly, 70).
Subs not used: Adam O’Connor, Phillip McCabe, Jake Donnelly, Eoin Comerford.
Booked: Pat Flynn (50), Graham Gartland (68).
Sent off: Jack Memery (80).
St. Patrick’s Athletic: Brendan Clarke, Ian Birmingham, Kenny Browne, Conor Kenna, Ger O’Brien, Greg Bolger, Killian Brennan, Conan Byrne (Jake Kelly, 72), Chris Forrester (Conor Murphy, 78), John Russell, Christy Fagan.
Subs not used: Sean Gannon, Stephen Maher, Shane McFaul, Aidan Price, Dave Ryan.
Referee: Anthony Buttimer.
Extratime Man of the Match: Christy Fagan (St Pats Ath) - He tormented the home side all evening, grabbing the all-important first two goals which finished off the resolve of Shels.