Pat's title bid fading away as Sava does Sligo favour
DROGHEDA UNITED 0
ST PATRICK'S ATH 0
IT WAS the result no one outside of Sligo wanted but one the protagonists couldn't avoid no matter how hard they tried.
These teams have met five times now this season and this was the fourth draw.
They needed penalties when 210 minutes of football couldn't separate them a fortnight ago in the FAI Cup and there was little change at Hunky Dorys Park as the league's second and third teams handed the initiative back to leaders Sligo Rovers, who need eight points from their remaining five games to win the league.
The Bit O'Red play host to an out-of-form Derry City tonight with the chance of putting eight points between them and St Pat's, who retreated down the M1 reflecting on a missed opportunity.
Liam Buckley's team dominated the second half and created a host of chances, but between the fine work of goalkeeper Gabriel Sava and their own poor finishing, they came up short.
"We are disappointed but we will take it as a point gained," Buckley said. "We were pressing people on to make chances. We controlled the second half, the only way they were going to score was a flick-on from a hoof.
"If Sligo win against Derry and win their games they will be deserved champions. A win for us would have been good from a league perspective. Derry will give them a difficult match.
"I'm too old to write things off. All the matches are very important. We did what we could, Drogheda defended reasonably well."
So familiar are these sides with each other that there was little surprise that they effectively cancelled each other out during a keenly contested first half.
Greg Bolger had an early chance for the Saints, who should have gone in front when Sean Brennan's miscued clearance fell to Jake Kelly but the former Bray winger couldn't capitalise.
The locals had reason to be aggrieved on the half-hour mark when Barry Murphy had to tip Brennan's cross over his own bar and, from the corner, Ger O'Brien appeared to block Paul Crowley's goal-bound shot with his hand.
Without their suspended talisman Declan O'Brien, the hosts were struggling to keep the ball when it went up front and their passing was too loose.
Christy Fagan went close with a low drive from a Kelly cross, while Philip Hand sent a controversial free just over the bar as both teams went in for an assessment of where it was going wrong.
It was the visitors who returned with an injection of pace. With James Chambers directing traffic from deep in midfield and Bolger surging forward in support, a goal looked inevitable but Sava had other ideas. Derek Prendergast bravely denied Kelly a header in front of goal, before Bolger was just wide with a low shot.
Pat's nearly fashioned an excellent team goal when sub Chris Forrester played a one-two with Chambers and threaded a neat ball through for Bolger, who was subsequently denied by Sava.
Fagan had an opportunity again denied by the diminutive goalkeeper, before Bolger fought his way past McNally and in on goal but, off balance, he couldn't get any power into his shot. Jake Carroll had the next go, firing over from a deep Bolger cross.
Sub Vinny Faherty again tested Sava, before Forrester and Ian Bermingham were denied by the 'keeper.
"Both managers will see it as two points dropped," Drogheda's Mick Cooke admitted. "The only person happy tonight is Ian Baraclough (Sligo boss)."
DROGHEDA UNITED -- Sava; Gannon, Prendergast, McNally, Hand; S Brennan (Brady 71), Crowley, Foley, R Brennan, G Brennan; Hynes (Mulvenna 90).
ST PATRICK'S ATH -- Murphy; O'Brien, Kenna (Browne h-t), Flynn, Bermingham; Chambers, Bolger, Carroll; O'Connor, Fagan (Faherty 81), Kelly (Forrester 61).
REF -- P Sutton (Clare).