Late Galway equaliser punishes nervy Pat's
St Pat's Ath 1 Galway Utd 1
St Patrick's Athletic were seven minutes away from a win which they didn't deserve when a stretch for a defensive clearance brought an end to Gavin Peers' contribution.
The response showed why the Dubliners are in trouble. Midfielder Lee Desmond dropped into central defence next to Rory Feely and Galway sensed opportunity. After a wasteful evening, they pressed again to capitalise on Saints' jitters.
A routine long throw caused panic, promising goalkeeper Conor O'Malley lost control and sub Pádraic Cunningham stole in to rescue a point.
The result is still enough to move the Saints out of the bottom three on goal difference but this was a chance to make a much more significant move. They were hanging on in the final minutes, a far cry from the side that staged a late revival in Limerick last week.
On this evidence, their battle with the drop will go down to the wire.
The decision to cut the Premier Division from 12 to 10 has made the situation at the bottom more interesting than the one-horse title race.
This fixture brought together 11th and 12th heading into last night's fixture and it was basement-dwelling Galway that actually looked more relaxed throughout this encounter.
Shane Keegan had rested some key men for Monday's abject defeat to Dundalk but after a bright enough start from the Saints, they grabbed control of the game and made the better chances before the interval.
Galway have operated with three at the back throughout the season but they went with four here. Alex Byrne was in front of them, and he kept Saints playmaker Darragh Markey quiet. Ronan Murray - benched in Dundalk - came in on the left of a front three and he was a constant threat cutting inside.
With ex-Saint David Cawley and Gavan Holohan linking well in the centre of the park, the Connacht men were superior. But their goalscoring record is poor, even though the quality of the build-up play here was not.
They were thwarted by a combination of bad finishing and good goalkeeping. Murray was the central figure, wasting one opportunity with his right foot after a weaving run that exposed Saints' weaknesses. Indeed, their hesitancy was summed up by a comical attempt at a backpass from Rory Feery that sailed over keeper O'Malley with both relieved when the ball hit the sidenetting.
The well-regarded O'Malley showed his quality before the break, though, with a fine stop to deny his fellow Mayoman Murray following a well-worked short corner routine.
St Pat's - who will be strengthened by the addition of Owen Garvan and Dutch defender Jordi Balk when the window re-opens today - were booed off at the interval.
And the natives got the response they wanted from the restart with the Saints upping the tempo and breaking the deadlock with the help of some good fortune.
With Ian Bermingham absent, JJ Lunney deputised at left full and he was involved as Markey also found some room and a cross made its way to the back post where Conan Byrne bought a ticket for the lottery with a speculative effort that deflected off Marc Ludden to deceive Conor Winn.
That gave the Saints something to protect and, rather than pressing on, they went back into their shell and invited pressure which frustrated the locals. And they rode their luck when Colm Horgan crossed and a Vinny Faherty header came back off the woodwork.
The reaction of the Galway player hinted at exasperation with a recent dry spell. Buckley sensed the need for action and withdrew Christy Fagan and Alex O'Hanlon with Billy Dennehy and Josh O'Hanlon summoned in an attempt to offer a bit more pace and energy further up the park.
Keegan duly emptied his bench too, with his side starting to run out of ideas until the loss of Peers gave them a way back in courtesy of Cunningham. O'Malley's injury-time stop from a Murray free denied them the victory with more jeers from Inchicore patrons at full-time telling the overall story.
ST PATRICK'S ATH - O'Malley, Kelly, Peers (Verdon 83), Feely, Lunney; Desmond, Cregg; Byrne, Markey, A O'Hanlon (Dennehy 66); Fagan (J O'Hanlon 66).
GALWAY UTD - Winn, Horgan, Grace, Folan Ludden; Byrne (McCormack 79); Devaney, Cawley, Holohan (Melody 70), Murray; Faherty (Cunningham 70)
Ref - D Tomney (Dublin)