| 8.4°C Dublin

Saints alive as Lilywhites wilt

St Pat's Atheltic1 Dundalk 0

Close

Sean Murray of Dundalk is tracked down by Rhys McCabe of St Patrick’s Athletic

Sean Murray of Dundalk is tracked down by Rhys McCabe of St Patrick’s Athletic

SPORTSFILE

Sean Murray of Dundalk is tracked down by Rhys McCabe of St Patrick’s Athletic

There was a distinct absence of a buzz around Richmond Park before this game but it was different at full-time.

A run of six matches without a win in all competitions had drained early season optimism levels, but an own goal from Dundalk's Daniel Cleary pointed Harry Kenny's team back in the right direction here.

The decisive blow might have been self inflicted, but Dundalk can have no complaints about the loss of their unbeaten record.

Vinny Perth's side were considerably below par at Richmond Park, and the form of Shamrock Rovers is leaving minimal margin for error.

Their sloppiness shouldn't take away from a morale boosting success for the Saints.

The hope will be that this result will bring back those punters that chose to stay indoors on this muddy evening.

Pessimism was understandable, seeing as Mikey Drennan - who remains the only player to score a league goal for the hosts this term - was out through suspension.

He will miss a further two games for his indiscretion in the Dublin derby with Bohemians so the Inchicore side need to find a longer-term solution. And they were a solid unit here.

Kenny returned to the three at the back which was his preferred strategy at the start of the season, with lone striker Gary Shaw relying on the support of Chris Forrester, Conor Clifford and Rhys McCabe if he was going to be effective.

It made for a congested midfield battle in the driving rain and the Saints were competitive in the early stages without really looking dangerous.

Dundalk were reasonably comfortable, while trying to break into the space in behind the Saints wing backs.

They had a clearcut opportunity to take the lead when a corner broke down and winger Daniel Kelly darted to the other end of the pitch where his right footer fizzed wide.

The Saints began to apply some pressure as the interval approached, with the Dundalk bench frustrated as their midfield three - Sean Hoare, Sean Murray and Jamie McGrath - were overwhelmed by the opposition.

With the rain falling, the Saints were showing a bit more energy and the attack-minded Murray and McGrath were pressed out of their comfort zone.

Problems

Yet the breakthrough goal that gave the Saints an interval lead really did come out of nothing.

McCabe did make a good run across the pitch to the left flank but his cross into the area should have posed no problems. However, Dundalk centre-half Cleary inexplicably turned the ball into his own net under no pressure with Gary Rogers on hand to collect.

Even a communication breakdown couldn't adequately explain the outcome, with Cleary appearing to lose balance while throwing his leg at the ball.

After taking just two points from their last five league games, and failing to score in the last three, this may just be the break the Saints needed to escape from their rut.

It gave them something to protect and they were disciplined from the resumption. The black shirts did have plenty of the ball but top scorer Hoban was struggling to get on the ball anywhere near the box.

Michael Duffy was marshalled well, with Dave Webster standing tall when the Dundalk winger ran at him. Vinny Perth switched McGrath to the right side and brought Jordan Flores in for Kelly in an attempt to get things going.

Eventually they sprung to life, but only after a miss from Forrester that should have removed suspense from the outcome.

Dundalk piled on the pressure late, with Murray threatening twice and Hoban off target narrowly at the death. Sub Georgie Kelly also had a penalty shout waved away.

But, in truth, Dundalk were penalised for waking up much too late.