Bray can’t hold back the Flood as Pat’s press towards title
Bray Wanderers 1 St Patrick’s Athletic 3
FOR CONSUMERS of a particular brand of porter it was Arthur's Day but for the long-suffering supporters of St Patrick's Athletic this was Anto's Night.
Anto Flood - known as Bisto to his mates - scored one goal and played a role in a second as St Pats got the win they needed, a 3-1 defeat of Bray Wanderers, to keep that push for a league title very much on track.
The underwhelming win away to Bray, courtesy of Flood's first goal in two months, a second half header from John Russell and a 94th minute screamer from Chris Fagan, was not the most convincing performance of the season from the Saints, but the fact that Liam Buckley's side are now six points clear with just four games left - although their challengers Dundalk and Sligo Rovers do have a game in hand - means that only a big collapse from the Inchicore men can now deny them their first title since 1999.
Since the undeniable high of a 4-0 win away to Shamrock Rovers last month Pats have been steady more than stunning and last night was another example of that, while the concession of an 83rd minute goal to Ismahil Akinade ended a run of three successive clean sheets.
On a quiet night in Bray, the football public seemed to be more keen to celebrate Arthur's Day than pay in to a League of Ireland game and there was a strangely muted atmosphere to the whole night, Pats hoping that their back-to-back home games against Sligo Rovers and Derry City next month will be surrounded by more of a buzz.
On 19 minutes Killian Brennan stepped up to strike a free kick, awarded for a foul on Daryl Kavanagh, but his well-struck effort went over the crossbar, and in the 34th minute Conan Byrne took his turn from a set piece but his free kick was off-target.Six minutes before half time, Pats managed to get into the lead.
Brennan's corner sailed into the box, Bray forward Ismahil Akinade tried to clear the danger with a header but the ball rebounded to Flood, and the much-travelled striker fired past Darren Quigley in the Bray goal to claim his seventh league goal of the season.
Flood was involved a lot more after the break, with the striker forcing a save from Darren Quigley two minutes after the restart while he was also bizarrely booked by referee Neil Doyle - who has had better nights - for an entirely innocent clash with Quigley.
Bray still hoped to have a say in this game and they had some good possession after the break, while the introduction of subs Kevin Knight and John Mulroy offered Pat Devlin's side fresh legs.
But Pats kept control of the game and managed to add a second goal on 66 minutes. Flood backheeled the ball into the path of Ian Bermingham and the Saints left back - possibly the most under-rated player in this team - whipped in a cross for Russell to head home, his first goal since May.
Flood hungered for more goals and he again forced a save from Quigley on 70 minutes, Flood then earning an ovation from the away fans when he was replaced by Chris Fagan for the final 14 minutes and Fagan almost nicked a goal for himself on 80 minutes, only to be denied by Quigley.
There was more to come as Bray came back into the game with a well-taken goal from Akinade seven minutes from time after he was set up by sub Kevin Knight, making the final moments tense for the travelling support, who now gear up the next challenge - away to UCD on Monday - in a bid to see that title push get over the line.