- Tuesday August 16th, 2022 @ 11:28
Report: Saints 1-0 Sligo
Serge Atakayi's first league goal for St Patrick's Athletic was enough to open up a four-point gap between the Saints and Sligo Rovers at Richmond Park.
Pat's finished this game without their full compliment of players after Mark Doyle was shown red on 64 minutes. But the defining moment of the contest came on 31 minutes when Atakayi made the most of a slip-up in the Sligo defence to hand a big advantage to Pat's in the race for the top four.
With regular first-choice goalkeeper Joseph Anang returning to parent club West Ham, new signing Daniel Rogers was an immediate starter for the Inchicore side, just hours after the US-born netminder's signature was announced.
Tim Clancy made two other changes from the CSKA Sofia defeat, with Atakayi and Mark Doyle both included.
On the back of encouraging home wins over both Bohs and Viking, Rovers boss John Russell made just the one change from the European second-leg victory over the Norwegians, with Niall Morahan replacing Greg Bolger in the middle while new signing, Welsh defender Cameron Evans, took his place on the bench.
Despite playing just three nights previous, both sides showed little signs of tiredness early on. Rovers started the game the brighter before the Saints wrestled back control, spending the majority of the opening half on top.
Sligo winger Will Fitzgerald worked new boy Rogers in the opening 90 seconds. The former Oldham goalkeeper got down to palm away the Limerick man's cross-come-shot after an early Rovers breakaway.
Clancy's charges were in charge from here until the interval, some of this owed to Rovers' sloppiness, particularly in midfield.
Atakayi almost struck on the counter after he was played through by Mark Doyle. While not hearing any shout from his goalkeeper Luke McNicholas who was behind him, Sligo's Max Mata headed Harry Brockbank's drive at goal only as far as Adam O'Reilly at the edge of the area.
It was a let-off for the visitors as O'Reilly's volley sneaked past McNicholas' post with 12 minutes gone.
The Pat's goalmouth remained quiet until the end of the first half, while further indecisiveness in the Rovers rearguard made the Bit O'Red pay.
Both McNicholas and Shane Blaney contested Eoin Doyle's through ball, with the latter touching the ball beyond his own keeper. The grateful Atakayi only needed to tap into an empty net for his maiden league goal.
Pat's full-back Barry Cotter nodded wide from a Chris Forrester corner early in the second period, while Blaney was unable to repeat his set-piece heroics from the Motherwell game as his 25-yard free-kick sailed over the crossbar without much fuss.
Without leading scorer Aidan Keena, Sligo tested Rogers with two long-range efforts from both McDonnell and Morahan close to the hour, both without success.
The Dubliners were then reduced to ten on 64 minutes when referee Ben Connolly showed Mark Doyle a straight red for a challenge on Kirk which left the full-back requiring treatment to a wound on his head.
The Connacht men almost levelled the game straight from the resulting free.
Nando Pijnaker nodded Greg Bolger's cross across goal, but Lewis Banks got his finish all wrong as he headed wide from close range.
Banks got his follow up all wrong shortly after when Rogers pushed another McDonnell blast from range into the air. The former Stoke City Under-23 skipper was only able to loop a header onto the roof of the Pat's goal.
Atakayi couldn't exploit a Pijnaker error with 14 minutes to go, instead the Finland underage international fired past the far post from the angle at the Shed End after Pijnaker seemed to stand on the ball 25 yards from his own goal.
There was one last chance for Rovers but Rogers pulled off a super stop to deny substitute Killian Barlow in the 90th minute after he was picked out by Kirk.
Report by RTE Online/David Goulden, photo credit: Sportsfile