ST PATRICK’S Athletic moved three points clear at the top of the Premier Division table last night following victory over second-from-bottom Drogheda United at Richmond Park.
David McAllister set the Inchicore side on their way on 22 minutes with a superb drive before Derek Doyle netted the second on the half hour. It looked like one of those games that had more goals written all over it but, try as they might, St Pat’s couldn’t add to their tally.
It was St Pat’s first victory over Drogheda this season, at the fourth attempt, having lost twice in the league and once in the Leinster Senior Cup to the Co Louth side so far this season.
Pat’s had the first chance of the game on seven minutes when O’Connor swung a cross in from the right which was headed narrowly wide of Drogheda goalkeeper Robert Duggan’s right-hand post by defender Shane Guthrie.
Doyle was next to get on the end of an O’Connor corner and threaten Duggan’s goal on 21 minutes, but he couldn’t get a good connection and headed over.
Pat’s went ahead on 22 minutes when Drogheda failed to clear Doyle’s ball into the danger area and McAllister smashed a cracking drive into the top left of Duggan’s net from just inside the box.
O’Connor was by far Pat’s most influential player and was involved in everything that was good about their performance.
Guthrie again tried his luck from an O’Connor corner on 26 minutes but headed wide but yet another O’Connor corner on the half hour set Doyle up for Pat’s second.
The visitors’ defence failed to clear O’Connor’s deep in-swinging corner and a scramble developed in the box, with Pat’s appearing to claim the ball had been forced over the line, but it was knocked out to Doyle on the left of the area and he slotted past Duggan from close range.
Pat’s very nearly went into the break three goals ahead but Eoghan Osbourne headed off the line from McAllister’s header after a corner from – who else – but O’Connor on 45 minutes.
Pat’s were very much in command as the second half developed and new signing, Ballyfermot-based youngster James O’Brien went close on the hour mark.
The 20-year-old former Birmingham City and Bradford City player struck a good shot from the left of the box but Duggan saw the danger in time and got out to make the save.
Kevin Ross had a shot on the break for Drogheda on 62 minutes as the Co Louth side strived to get back into the game, but he fired his shot wide of Gary Rogers’ goal.
Duggan came to Drogheda’s rescue again on 65 minutes when he saved Guthrie’s header after a pinpoint cross from O’Connor on the right wing.
On 68 minutes Vinny Faherty played a nifty one-two with McAllister but Drogheda defender Mick Daly cleared when the ball came into the box.
Drogheda found it hard to break down the Pat’s midfield as the half progressed but found an avenue on 74 minutes when a long ball was despatched to William Woods, but Rogers made the vital intervention.
McAllister had a chance to notch his second of the night on 76 minutes but hammered his shot from 25 yards out high over the crossbar, while Doyle did likewise with a free-kick on 82 minutes.
The win moves Pat’s on to 45 points, three ahead of Shamrock Rovers, who could move back level on points with Pat’s if they can snatch all three points against Bohemians on Sunday afternoon.