Dave Donnelly reports from Richmond Park.
Shamrock Rovers dropped points for the first time this season as they were held to a scoreless draw by ten-man St Patrick’s Athletic at Richmond Park on Sunday evening.
The visitors had more than enough chances to take all three points, particularly in the opening quarter, but became increasingly frustrated by a resilient and hard-working Pats side.
Stephen O’Donnell’s side held out despite playing for 41 minutes with only ten men following Shane Griffin’s ill-judged tackle on Gary O’Neill.
Rovers emptied their bench in the second half and peppered the Saints box with crosses and passes from all angles but lacked the incisive ball to unlock a determined Saints backline.
A scoreless draw looked an exceedingly unlikely prospect as the opening quarter saw Rovers create chance after chance as Jack Byrne and Aaron McEneff showed off a rich variety of passing.
They should have led within four minutes as Aaron Greene outpaced Rory Feely and bore down on goal but he took too much out of the ball and allowed Brendan Clarke to rush out and gather.
Ronan Finn was guilty two minutes later as he did brilliantly to work his way into the box but, reluctant to shoot on his left, he turned back into trouble and Ian Bermingham mopped up.
Neil Farrugia was picked out by a fine McEneff diagonal and he laid it back for Byrne, whose shot was batted away by Clarke – three gilt-edged chances within the opening eight minutes.
The one-way traffic continued as Byrne picked out Graham Burke arriving late at the back post but his stooping header lacked the power to trouble Clarke.
Pats saw David Titov, Griffin and Jamie Lennon booked as their efforts to rein in the rampant Rovers saw discipline slip momentarily, while O’Donnell himself was also shown yellow as a warning.
Those warnings weren’t heeded, however, and Pats lost Griffin to a second yellow just four minutes into the second half as he laid out O’Neill after being nutmegged.
Lee Grace and Neil Farrugia tested Clarke in the Saints goal as Rovers looked to make the man advantage count, while Jack Byrne’s low shot just crept past the post.
The longer the game went on, however, the less likely it looked like the breakthrough would come as the Athletic dug in and heeded their manager’s call to ‘embrace the work.’
O’Donnell was himself sent to the stands following a second complaint from fourth official Rob Hennessy.
He might even have seen his side do better than a point as Chris Forrester broke from a corner and had just Roberto Lopes to beat when a sly tug from Liam Scales put a stop to it.
St. Patrick's Athletic: Brendan Clarke; Rory Feely, Luke McNally, Ian Bermingham; David Titov (Dan Ward 46), Jamie Lennon (Billy King 56), Robbie Benson, Lee Desmond, Shane Griffin; Chris Forrester, Georgie Kelly (Jordan Gibson 56).
Subs not used: Conor Kearns (gk), Paul Cleary, Darragh Markey, Jason McClelland.
Booked: David Titov (26), Shane Griffin (37 & 49), Jamie Lennon (41), Jordan Gibson (63),
Shamrock Rovers: Alan Mannus; Joey O’Brien (Rhys Marshall 62), Roberto Lopes, Lee Grace (Liam Scales 75); Ronan Finn (Rory Gaffney 67), Aaron McEneff, Jack Byrne, Gary O’Neill (Dylan Watts 75), Neil Farrugia; Graham Burke, Aaron Greene (Dean Williams 75).
Subs not used: Leon Pohls (gk), Daniel Lafferty.
Booked: Graham Burke (69), Jack Byrne (82), Liam Scales (90+5).
Referee: Paul McLaughlin.
Extratime.ie Player of the Match: Ian Bermingham (St Patrick’s Athletic).