League Report: St. Patrick's Athletic 0 - 1 Waterford
Macdara Ferris reports from Richmond Park
After its long winter hibernation the League of Ireland returned on Friday night with the usual opening night sense of anticipation. Fans thinking that maybe those new signings will gel quickly and the last few weeks on the training pitch will show that something special is building.
By the end of the 90 minutes though for the home supporters in Richmond Park that optimism had maybe drifted away somewhat as they saw their team lose 1-0 to Waterford although they gave their team a good ‘bualadh bos’ as they left the field unlucky not to have taken something from the game.
The travelling Blues supporters were singing at the end of the match as their much changed team took all three points albeit slightly against the run of play. A couple of Alan Reynolds’ new signings excelled with goalscorer Kevin O’Connor and goalkeeper Brian Murphy the stand out men for the visitors.
With so many changes to both squads it felt like a couple of new teams out on the Inchicore pitch. The visitors had eight debutants in their team while the Stephen O’Donnell Pat’s purge meant five new players make their debut for the Saints but with Brendan Clarke retaining his place in goal.
The new football regime feel was matched offield with FAI’s interim deputy CEO Niall Quinn watching on from the Director’s box in Richmond Park.
Referee Sean Grant was quick to get out his Valentine’s yellow cards out early in the game as first Jamie Lennon and then Scott Allardice went in his book for tackles that were deemed too tasty for his liking.
It took a quarter of an hour for the first real chance of the game and it fell to the Blues’ 21-year-old captain Michael O’Connor. He got his head on an inswinging Kevin O’Connor cross but it just dropped over the Pat’s cross bar.
Five minutes later Ali Cootes shot from outside the box zipped along the surface but Clarke was well positioned and claimed the ball at his feet at the first attempt.
Pats, who had Alan Mathews listed as manager on their teamsheet, came into the game after that and really should have taken a half time lead with them into the break.
Dean Clarke was a late replacement in the starting XI for the Saints as Darragh Markey dropped out before the kick off and his spectacular effort just after the 30 minute mark almost broke the deadlock.
He collected what was a poor Clarke kick out and spinning around on 40 yards he arrowed a driven effort that almost caught Brian Murphy out on his return to the League of Ireland after a decade away.
Billy King’s wingplay was a positive point for Pat’s on the night and he created the next Pat’s chance with the ball coming in to Martin Rennie but Murphy was able to handle and snuff out the danger. Goalscoring was an issue for the Saints last season and it was the case again in this match.
Rory Feely, playing against his former club, had two efforts on the Blues goal just before the break but the teams went back to the dressingrooms level a half time level.
However within four minutes of the restart, the visitors had the lead after a Robbie Benson error gave the Blues a gilt edged chance that they were able to convert. Matthew Smith pounced on it and as Clarke slipped O’Connor’s crisp finish found the back of the net.
Saints Head Coach Stephen O’Donnell was quick to change things up bringing Chris Forrester on now they had a game to chase. There was a big shout for a Pats peno as Andre Burley seemed to take Feely down in the box but all the home team got was a corner.
The Pat’s player was booked for his protests and he then looked certain to have got the equaliser only for his header off a King corner to be pushed superbly out by Murphy.
Saints sub Ronan Hale added good impetus for Pat’s on his arrival on the pitch. His cross was deflected goalwards on 75 mins requiring Murphy to tip one over his own bar and then Hale’s header was cleared off the line by Tyreke Wilson.
The buzz of the crowd rose expectantly on 80 minutes when the ball fell to Robbie Benson – who had a quiet enough debut – and in space on the edge of the area while he caught the ball cleanly it went straight at Murphy.
The 36-year-old goalkeeper looks to be a superb acquisition for the Blues and he pulled off another stunning save seven minutes from time to tip away Chris Forrester’s goal bound effort, secure the clean sheet and the all important three points.
St Patrick’s Athletic: Brendan Clarke; Rory Feely, Luke McNally, Lee Desmond, Ian Bermingham ©; Dean Clarke (James Doona 79), Jason McClelland (Chris Forrester 55), Jamie Lennon (Ronan Hale, 67), Robbie Benson, Billy King; Martin Rennie.
Subs not used: Conor Kearns (gk), Dan Ward, Oliver Younger, Jake Walker.
Booked: Jamie Lennon (4), Rory Feely (58)
Waterford: Brian Murphy; Sam Bone, Andre Burley, Akinwale Odimayo, Tyreke Wilson; Ali Cootes, Scott Allardice, Kevin O’Connor, Robbie McCourt; Matty Smith (Darragh Power 80), Michael O'Connor ©.
Subs not used: Tadgh Ryan (gk), Graham Cummins, Dean Walsh, Shane Griffin, John Martin, Niall O’Keefe.
Booked: Scott Allardice (8), Kevin O’Connor (81).
Referee: Sean Grant.
Extratime.ie Player of the Match: Brian Murphy (Waterford)
Wins for @WaterfordFCie @DundalkFC @shelsfc and @FinnHarpsFC in the opening day of the league.https://t.co/mXAPExshn4— Extratime.ie (@ExtratimeNews) February 14, 2020
The league table looks like this at this earliest of stages....https://t.co/RuY3pYCwK6
(our table sorts by ID not alphabetic - we will fix that)