Wednesday 13 December 2017

Mahon effect shining through as flying Saints share spoils


Pat Fenlon remonstrates with referee Dave McKeon as they leave the pitch at half-time. DAVID MAHER/SPORTSFILE
Pat Fenlon remonstrates with referee Dave McKeon as they leave the pitch at half-time. DAVID MAHER/SPORTSFILE
Daniel McDonnell

Daniel McDonnell

THEY may have conceded their first goal of the season here, but, in protecting their unbeaten start to the new campaign, St Patrick's Athletic delivered further evidence of their rapid improvement under Pete Mahon.

A big week for Bohemians culminates on Friday with a trip to take on Shamrock Rovers, the side considered the most likely pretenders to the throne. At this stage, however, it's the Inchicore outfit, who look a more durable proposition.

Mahon and his assistant John Gill are too experienced to get carried away, though, and they will be conscious that, on another night, Bohs would have finished more clinically and come away with the spoils.

Nevertheless, the manner in which the Saints dug in after a tricky opening to the second half fully warranted a point.

At the break, it looked as though they might come away from Dalymount Park with the full complement, as they took a deserved lead to the dressing room.

The Saints had started sluggishly in their scoreless draw with Sporting Fingal last Friday, but they produced a far more accomplished first half display this time around although they were set on their way by a stroke of fortune with Jason Byrne scuffing wide from a couple of yards when finding space in a crowded area -- a shocking miss.

Thereafter, the outsiders began to impose with Paul Byrne, in for Alex Williams, a lively presence.

The ex-UCD man caused difficulty with his physicality, ruffling Owen Heary, who was deployed at centre- half, with Brian Shelley dispatched to right-full.

Byrne was integral to the opening goal, which was initially instigated by a rare piece of sloppiness from Conor Powell. A couple of passes later, Byrne was cleverly laying off to his onrushing strike partner Vinny Faherty, who converted with aplomb before seeking the acclaim of the delighted travelling fans. Game on.

Mahon's strike pair combined well, and another link-up resulted in a deft Faherty chip that sailed narrowly over the crossbar.

Bohs, while afforded plenty of possession, were finding it hard to stretch a Saints defence rich in the confidence that naturally accompanies five clean sheets.

That said, they looked surprisingly vulnerable on set-pieces with Gareth McGlynn's header blocked after a clever Killian Brennan chip before the latter swung in a corner late in the half which prompted an almighty scramble.

The sum total was a Heary header which Gary Rogers just about flapped to safety.

It was a different story after the interval, with Bohs level within two minutes following a goal from open play. Byrne, so disappointed with his earlier miss, made amends with a scrappy strike from eight yards that squeezed under the body of Rogers.

The champions were in fifth gear now, and thought they were ahead shortly after when a fine counter attack culminated with a Paddy Madden header that the linesman chalked off for offside.

Madden probably wished there was a flag up when he subsequently squandered a gilt edged chance to put the hosts in the ascendency. The young striker was on hand when a Glenn Cronin header was unconvincingly palmed away by Rogers, alas he fired wildly over the crossbar.

For a time, the Saints struggled to break from their own half yet the introduction of the experienced Damien Lynch helped to regain their composure.

Bohs continued to press, with Raffaele Cretaro and Mark Quigley sent into the fray, and Rogers was alert to collect at the feet of the former Pat's player who has developed the handy ability to deliver late winners in his brief stint with the Gypsies.

There would be no such contrib-ution on this occasion, with all matches in this midweek series of games, destined to end with honours even.

Bohemians -- O'Connor; Shelley, Heary, Oman, Powell; McGlynn, Cronin, Keegan, Brennan; Madden [Cretaro 78], Byrne (Quigley 82).

St Patrick's Athletic -- Rogers; Pender, Kenna, Guthrie, Bermingham (Lynch 63); Guy, Mulcahy, S Byrne, Cash (Coughlan 75); Faherty, P Byrne (McAllister 84)

Ref -- D McKeon [Dublin]

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