Andrew Dempsey reports from Richmond Park
St Patrick’s Athletic bounced back from the disappointment of Monday night’s defeat against Derry City with a 2-0 win over Finn Harps on Friday evening.
On loan Dundalk star Georgie Kelly netted a brace for the Saints who profited on some basic defensive errors from the Co. Donegal side.
After falling at home to fellow European hopefuls Derry City, Saints boss Stephen O’Donnell made three changes ahead of the visit of Harps to Richmond Park.
Harps, on the other hand, also went into the clash by the Emmet Road with a point to prove after they were defeated by ten-man Shelbourne on Tuesday evening.
Ollie Horgan’s charges saw three changes themselves from their defeat against the Reds – with Stephen Folan coming in to make his Finn Harps debut.
The Donegal side, who went into the game searching for their first win at Richmond Park since May 2017 had the first effort on target of the game through Tony McNamee, but he couldn’t trouble Brendan Clarke.
And after dominating the play and ball for the opening stages of the game, Pats took the lead through Georgie Kelly.
Kelly was found by the trickery of fellow former Lilywhite Robbie Benson before firing home past Mark McGinley from just outside the six-yard box.
The Saints almost doubled their lead moments later through Luke McNally, but the former Drogheda United loanee could only flick his effort from a corner just over the bar.
However, it was on the half-hour mark when the Saints doubled their lead through Kelly once more, as he profited on a Harps defensive mistake.
Jason McClelland threaded the ball through a gap, and it looked for all the world that Kosovar Sadiki would clear the danger, which he eventually failed to.
And there was Kelly who made no mistake, picking up the loose ball and rounding McGinley to give his new side a two-goal lead.
Harps ought to have been handed a lifeline prior to the half-time break, but referee Sean Grant decided not to dismiss Pats midfielder Jamie Lennon for what looked to be a reckless lunge on Ryan Connolly.
The opening period was one to forget for the Co. Donegal side as manager Horgan’s passionate complaints to the officials was their main item of note to take from the opening period.
Following their opening half display, Harps rallied early in the second period, going close with a free-kick routine.
However, it was Stephen O’Donnell’s charges who nearly grabbed their third of the night – but McGinley was on hand to make a fine save from Rory Feely’s header at the back post.
Moments later Kelly was denied his hat-trick by Harps keeper McGinley who stood firm to save his side from conceding again.
The Northwesterners however went close shortly after, but Sam Todd could not get enough on a flick-on to trouble Clarke in the Saints goal.
Pats however held firm to secure all three points on a night where Finn Harps were punished dearly for their defensive errors at critical junctures of the game.
The result sets the Saints up well for their trip to face Harps away from home on Monday evening in the first-round of the FAI Cup.
St. Patrick's Athletic: Brendan Clarke ; Ian Bermingham , Shane Griffin , Luke McNally ; Robbie Benson (Dan Ward 69) , Rory Feely , Chris Forrester , Jamie Lennon (Lee Desmond 69) , Jason McClelland (Darragh Markey 80) , David Titov ; Georgie Kelly (Jordan Gibson 80) .
Subs not used: Darragh Burns, Conor Kearns, Martin Rennie.
Booked: Jamie Lennon (36), Chris Forrester (63), Shane Griffin (89).
Sent off: None.
Finn Harps: Mark McGinley ; Stephen Folan , Shane McEleney (Ruairi Harkin 69) , Kosovar Sadiki , Sam Todd , David Webster (Stephen Doherty 85) ; Ryan Connolly , Mark Coyle (Adrian Delap 69) , Tony McNamee , Karl O'Sullivan (Mark Russell 85) ; Alexander Kogler (Raffaele Cretaro 46) .
Subs not used: Leo Donnellan, Patrick McGarvey.
Booked: David Webster (58), Raffaele Cretaro (63), Kosovar Sadiki (66), Stephen Folan (89),
Sent off: None.
Referee: Sean Grant
ExtraTime.com Player of the Match: Georgie Kelly (St Patrick’s Athletic).