David Wilson reports from Richmond Park
A gritty Dundalk performance secured a valuable 2-0 away win as they dented St. Patrick’s Athletic title hopes in the process.
The Lilywhites secured only their second clean sheet of the season as Jim Magilton’s side snatched goals in either half through a Sam Bone OG and a David McMillan tap in.
There had been nothing to separate the teams in the last three meetings between the sides which had all ended 1-1, but this game was decided on who took their chances and who did not - with the away side proving more clinical.
The opening half of football was played predominantly in the Pats’ final third, with the Saints dominating possession of the ball as they looked to prise an opening.
Billy King and Robbie Benson played as supportive number tens, hovering around focal point Mattie Smith. He was the first player to register a shot on target for either side, as he glanced a header straight at Alessio Abibi in the ninth minute.
Two minutes later, Pats penetrated after a neat one-two between Jamie Lennon and Smith resulted in Lennon finding John Mountney wide on the right, but he dragged his effort harmlessly wide.
Last Monday Dundalk suffered a drubbing on their most recent trip to Dublin at the hands of Bohemians but they were determined not to lose the game as they sat in and looked to play on the counterattack through two strikers in the returning Patrick Hoban and David McMillan.
A raking Chris Shields pass found the run of McMillan who darted into the space left behind by the rampaging Ian Bermingham. McMillan fed Patrick McEleney who was scythed down by Sam Bone who went into the referees’ book in the 14th minute. McEleney got up to take the free kick which ‘keeper Vitezslav Jaros tipped around the post.
Stephen O’Donnell’s side continue to play in front of Dundalk, keeping the ball well in their 3-4-2-1 formation. Smith whipped a cross from the left over the head of Val Adedokun to King who controlled well before firing a volley over from a tight angle in the 26th minute.
On the half-hour mark the Lilywhites created their best chance of the match so far. Sam Stanton was at the heart of a move which found Raivis Jurkovskis free on the right-hand side. The Latvian floated a cross to the back post to where Hoban was on hand, but the Galwegian fluffed his header.
The ball dropped to Michael Duffy who struck first time but was excellently blocked by the diving Bone.
Two minutes later and the away side were ahead against the run of play. Hoban dragged two defenders Paddy Barrett and Bone toward the touchline before releasing the inside run of Duffy.
He cut inside and picked out McEleney at the edge of the box who then found McMillan on the right just inside the box who shot first time. The ball was going well wide of the far post but was inadvertently toe poked home by the retreating Bone into the bottom corner.
Not until a succession of corners just before the halftime whistle was Dundalk’s Albanian ‘keeper tested but Adedokun was on hand to protect Abibi by heading away from danger.
The second half was six minutes old when Dundalk grabbed their second. Shields found Hoban down the right who crossed across the six-yard box to an unmarked McMillan who was on hand to tap home from five yards.
Three minutes after McMillan was the saviour once more as he headed a Barrett header off his own goal line to prevent the Reds from halving the deficit.
The Athletic were off the back of salvaging a 2-2 draw away in Derry last Monday and needed to show grit and guile to get themselves back into this game.
O’Donnell acted quickly and introduced West Ham loanee Alfie Lewis along with poacher Ronan Coughlan.He didn’t take long to threaten the Dundalk goal, with the former Sligo player flashing an effort across the face of goal which had Abibi worried.
On the hour mark Lewis, Chris Forrester, Coughlan and King all combined to set Lewis through on the right. The midfielder squared a ball beyond the onrushing Abibi but was excellently cut out by Andy Boyle.
With just under 20 minutes to go Forrester found a pocket of space and picked out Benson who cracked an effort toward goal, but Boyle blocked magnificently.
Smith glided in field as Pats continued to mount pressure and cracked a left footed strike on goal, but this time Shields was on hand to block and keep that clean sheet.
Pats go into the mid-season break picking just one win in their last six as their title charge looks to be faltering.
Dundalk on the other hand will be grateful for the break as they reassess their squad and hope to appoint as new full-time manager by the time the next games come around on the 11th of June.
St. Patricks Athletic: Vitezslav Jaros (GK); Sam Bone, Lee Desmond, Paddy Barrett (Alfie Lewis 56); John Mountney (Nahum Melvin-Lambert 74), Jamie Lennon (Ronan Coughlan 56), Robbie Benson, Chris Forrester, Ian Bermingham (c) (Ben McCormack 83); Billy King, Mattie Smith
Subs not used: Barry Murphy (gk), Josh Keeley (gk), Danny Norris, Kian Corbally
Booked: Sam Bone (14)
Dundalk: Alessio Abibi; Raivis Jurkovskis, Andy Boyle, Chris Shields (c), Val Adedokun; Michael Duffy, Sam Stanton (Wilfried Zahibo 83), Greg Sloggett, Patrick McEleney; David McMillan (Daniel Kelly 75), Patrick Hoban (Sean Murray 68)
Subs not used: Peter Cherrie (gk), Darragh Leahy, Ryan O’Kane, Mark Hanratty, Han Jeongwoo, Jesus Perez
Booked: Greg Sloggett (62), Alessio Abibi (77), Val Adedokun (85)
Referee: Neil Doyle
Extratime.com Player of the match: Patrick Hoban (Dundalk)