Patrick O Connor reports from Richmond Park
St. Patrick’s Athletic’s objective of joining Shamrock Rovers and Sligo Rovers at the top of the league table was achieved in Richmond Park on Friday night when they recorded a narrow 1-0 victory over Derry City.
The win earned from a Chris Forrester goal came at a price however as they had Jamie Lennon red carded, their third red card in consecutive games following the dismissal of Lee Desmond and Ian Bermingham in the game against Bohemians the previous weekend.
Pats took full advantage of the fact that both Sligo Rovers and Shamrock Rovers were not in league action at the weekend, both were involved in European club competitions. The victory puts them on 38 points creating a three- way tie at the top of the table with the Saints sitting third on goal difference.
The sides were fairly evenly matched in the first half with Stephen O’Donnell’s side marginally better, mainly due to the exciting wing play of Darragh Burns.
He was a constant threat to Derry’s defence, running at them at every opportunity and either drawing fouls or whipping in crosses for his colleagues.
It was from one such Burns attack that the opening goal arrived in the 24th minute. His initial shot was blocked by the Derry defence, the ball ping ponged around the box before Chris Forrester took control, swivelling with the ball at his feet and blasting the ball to the roof of the net.
Derry was playing a lot of long hopeful balls during this period. The absence of midfield playmakers Joe Thompson, who was unavailable, and Will Patching, whose loan period has concluded, was clearly evident as they struggled to create any worthwhile chances for strikers Junior and James Akintunde.
Ruaidhri Higgins’s side did get a lifeline early in the second half however when Pats were reduced to ten men. Lennon had been booked in the 35th minute and when got a second yellow in the 57th minute he then made the long walk to the dressing room.
Derry took full advantage of the dismissal and piled on the pressure for the remainder of the match. They introduced Will Fitzgerald on the right wing and he caused left back Jason McClelland lots of problems whenever he got the ball.
The gap on Pat’s right side following Lennon’s red card was exploited by Akintunde, who moved out to Derry’s left wing to try to prise an opening.
Derry’s best chance of an equaliser came in the 65th minute when centre back Eoin Toal powered a header off the crossbar.
The home side defended very deeply for the last half hour of the match while Derry had the majority of the possession but even though the Candystripes moved the ball well from side to side they were incapable of splitting the packed home defence for whom Paddy Barrett was excellent throughout.
Derry forced a series of corners in the closing minutes but despite their valiant efforts they still did not really trouble Pat’s keeper Vitezslav and left Inchicore empty handed.
St Patrick’s Athletic: Vitezlav Jaros; Jamie Lennon, Paddy Barrett, Sam Bone, Jason McClelland Chris Forrester, Alfie Lewis, Robbie Benson, Darragh Burns (Ben McCormack 73), Matty Smith (James Abankwah 62), Ronan Coughlan (Billy King 25).
Subs not used: Josh Keely (gk); Barry Murphy (gk); Tommy Lonergan, Ross Fay.
Booked: Jamie Lennon (35 & 57).
Sent off: Jamie Lennon (57).
Derry City: Nathan Gartside; Ciaran Coll (Evan McGlaughlin 58), Eoin Toal©, Cameron McJannet, Daniel Lafferty, Ronan Boyce, Darren Cole (William Fitzgerald 54), Jack Malone (Patrick Ferry 70), Ciaran Harkin, Junior Ogredi-Uzokwe, James Akintunde.
Subs not used: Jack Lemoigan (gk); Mark McChrystal, Caolan McGlaughlin, Michael Harris, Caoimhan Porter, Brendan Barr.
Booked: Jack Malone (18), Eoin Toal (87).
Referee: Neil Doyle.
Extratime.com Player of the Match: Paddy Barrett (St. Patrick’s Athletic).