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shels keep pats at bay for replay

SAINT Patrick's Athletic have put their supporters through an awful lot of heartache when it comes to the FAI Cup since they last won the trophy back in 1961.

And that frustration carries on into 2014 as the Saints now need a replay next Tuesday night away to Shelbourne as they somehow managed to only draw 1-1 at Richmond Park last night, despite taking a third-minute lead and owning the ball for most of the game.

However, they were unable to break down a dogged Shels defence and their in-form keeper Greg Murray.

Seeing as they are unlikely to hold onto their Premier Division title this season, the FAI Cup offers Liam Buckley the best chance of a trophy this season but Pats will need to be sharper if they are to outwit First Division side Shels at Tolka Park in that replay on Tuesday.

European football is a must for Pats and while they are still in the hunt for a Europa League slot via the league, Shamrock Rovers are hot on their tails and that battle for a European place will be a tight one, so a Cup run would not only end the agony Pats have felt since that last win - the Pats hoodoo in the FAI Cup has lasted fro longer than the Berlin Wall - but also gift them a European spot.

Shels boss John McDonnell was a manager unable to land a league title for Pats in his spell as boss at Richmond Park but as Shels remain in the hunt for the Division One title - they face Longford Town in a title decider next weekend - he can work his magic again and lead the northside club back to the Cup final once again, if they can get the better of Pats in the replay.

LEGEND

It was a dream start for Pats in front of a crowd of 1,293, including a large battalion of Shels fans who used the occasion to mark the passing on Thursday of club legend Eric Barber.

Chris Fagan fired them into the lead after three minutes but Alan O'Sullivan equalised soon after and for all their possession and build-up play, Pats lacked the clinical edge needed to put Shels away.

Fagan has established himself as the leading scorer in the league this season and he showed why after just three minutes when he put the home side in front.

Shels defender Adam O'Connor's slip gifted the chance to Fagan and he made no mistake from close range to claim his 18th goal of the season overall.

But that lead didn't last too long as Shels were level on 11 minutes after the Saints defence failed to deal with a clever ball into the box from Jordan Keegan and Ireland U19 cap Alan O'Sullivan, who only joined Shels a matter of weeks ago after a spell at Aberdeen, was free to nick the equalising goal and beat keeper Brendan Clarke.

Yet Clarke was a spectator for what was to follow as Shels had to deal with constant spells without the ball, Pats camped in the Reds half for long periods.

BLOCK

On 29 minutes Shels needed a block from captain Brian Gannon to deny Fagan, a minute later Reds keeper Greg Murray had to save a well-struck effort from Christopher Forrester, and it should have been 2-1 to the home side on 32 minutes but Conan Byrne's close-range header, from a cross by Conor McCormack, somehow missed the target.

On 38 minutes Forrester was again in sight of the Shels goal but he scuffed his effort, and four minutes before the break Keith Fahey was just wide with a free kick.

The second half brought more of the same, Pats holding possession and trying to carve open the away side but miss after miss caused groans from the home support.

Conan Byrne, a former Shels player, fired wide on 51 minutes and on the hour mark he fired in a dangerous-looking cross which sailed over the bar.

Forrester was next up to threaten on 63 minutes but the impressive Adam O'Connor in the Shels defence blocked the effort while Pats should really have had the lead on 64 minutes. Slow build up play created an opening for Fahey and his shot was on target but defender Philip Hand blocked off the line.

CLINICAL

But Pats were not at their most clinical and even though he won the man of the match award, keeper Murray did not a lot of work to do, though he was needed for a superb save to deny Byrne 12 minutes from time.

Frustration grew as chances went wide and there was no way past Murray for Pats, who now need a cross-city trip on Tuesday to face their old rivals if the Saints are to make it into the last eight.


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