PATS CLOSing IN ON EUROPA
A COUPLE of former Gypsies put a curse on their old club last night as St Patrick's Athletic took a major step towards securing European football for Richmond Park next season.
St Pats made it four wins from their last five league games with a 3-1 defeat of Bohemians, ex-Bohs players Chris Fagan and Aaron Greene doing the initial damage with a goal each in the space of two first-half minutes.
A strike followed from Conan Byrne, in a game which the home side dominated for long periods and also served as an ideal taster for the Saints' next big challenge, Sunday's FAI Cup semi-final at home to Finn Harps.
That semi offers Pats a more creditable and lucrative path to the Europa League but Liam Buckley's men will still aim for a strong league finish.
Losing their Premier Division title after just one year is a disappointment but Cup success, and a healthy finish in the league, would put a nice gloss on the 2014 season for Saints fans.
Pats, truly dominant against a tired- looking Bohs, now hold a seven-point lead over their only rivals for third spot - Shamrock Rovers - and while the Hoops have a game in hand and still harbour ambitions of finishing in the top three, it's hard to see Liam Buckley's side slipping up in their remaining games, against Drogheda United (away), Athlone Town (home) and Sligo Rovers (away).
Last night was a game where they could have slipped up as Bohs have a decent recent record against the Saints.
Perhaps if Buckley had made wholesale changes to his starting XI with an eye on the Cup final the home side could have been in for a tough night, but the Saints boss fielded as strong a side as possible.
It was Bohs who made the changes, keeper Aaron Shanahan handed his league debut in place of Dean Delany while young forward Jake Hyland started only his second league game of the season.
Pats took control with those two goals late in the first half. Fagan put them in front on 39 minutes with his 18th league goal of the season, finishing off after good work by defender Ian Bermingham.
And on 41 minutes it was 2-0, Greene left with a free header from a Fagan cross.
Bohs had a chance to get back into the game just before the break but Dinny Corcoranc headed over.
The game was clearly beyond Bohs by now the only question was whether Pats could add to their already healthy goal difference, something that could prove important if they are to press Cork City for second place.
Winger Byrne made it 3-0 in the 65th minute, latching on to a clever ball from Christopher Forrester and going on to fire home his 20th of the season overall.
Bohs boss Owen Heary threw on his subs and one of those replacements, Anto Murphy, nicked a consolation goal from distance with seven minutes left.
The Gypsies finished the game with 10 men as Derek Pender was carried off with four minutes to go, by which stage they had already used all their subs and he could miss the rest of the season.
Greene day: St Patrick's Athletic's Aaron Greene beats Bohemians defender Derek Pender to score his side's second goal shortly before half-time during their Airtricity League Premier Division clash at Richmond Park last night.