Clarke fires in-form Saints towards European places
St Patrick's Ath 2 Sligo Rovers 0
The summit of the league table is still a bit away, but St Patrick's Athletic are certainly enjoying their status as the leaders of the Dublin clubs, with their purple patch continuing with victory over Sligo Rovers last night.
Having flirted with relegation for most of last season, Pat's this term find themselves within touching distance of the European places, only goal difference keeping them out of the top four.
And, pleasingly for supporters of the Inchicore club, they are the highest-ranked Dublin club in the league, five points ahead of Shamrock Rovers.
With second half goals from Dean Clarke and Thomas Byrne, a scrappy game didn't set the night on fire for the Richmond Park crowd of 1,273 but Pat's are showing the right mixture of resilience at the back and opportunism up front to profit.
For Sligo it's a case of worrying times, this their third league loss in a row.
Pat's had been the dominant side for the first half, and yet it was the away team who came closest to opening the scoring, with a strong effort by Sligo winger Adam Wixted just before the break.
It was all bits and pieces from the home side, Jamie Lennon and Ryan Brennan off-target.
And Sligo's attitude saw them go on the counter-attack on 42 minutes as Wixted's well-struck shot was on target, Pat's needing a good save from Barry Murphy.
It took just six minutes of the second half for Pat's to finally get in front, a cross from right-back Simon Madden falling for Dean Clarke, who was unmarked in the box and he took his time and fired home the first goal of the game.
However, Clarke was forced off due to injury moments later.
Midfield tyros Darragh Markey and Lennon toiled away as Pat's added experience off the bench in the form of Killian Brennan, his 73rd minute shot necessitating a save from Mitchell Beeney.
Sligo made Pat's work in the last 10 minutes, veteran Raff Cretaro adding something to their attack, but though there was time for one more goal, it fell for the home team. Defender Jack Keaney's challenge on sub Jake Keegan in the box was more clumsy than malicious but ref Robert Hennessy didn't hesitate to award a spot kick.
Up stepped Thomas Byrne, the Ireland U-19 cap who was making his full league debut after four sub appearances and he calmly sent the ball into the net, despite a touch from keeper Beeney.
Next up for the Saints is another home game, Derry City the visitors on Friday and a win there would push Pat's into the top four, a sea-change from last season's relegation battle, a battle that Sligo are now very much in the middle of.
ST PATRICK'S ATHLETIC - Murphy; Madden, Toner, Desmond, Bermingham; R Brennan, Lennon (K Brennan 60); C Byrne, Markey, (Kelly 83) Clarke (Keegan 55); T Byrne.
SLIGO Rvs - Beeney; Boylan, Callan-McFadden, Mahon, Watters; Wixted (Cretaro 80), Keaney, Mahon, McAleer (Roy 58); Moorhouse (Morrison 67); Morgan.
REF - R Hennessy