Saints keep their heads in battle to stay in top flight
St Patrick's Athletic 2 Shamrock Rovers 0
It's still a tad early for the celebrations, but life on Emmet Road in Inchicore looks a lot brighter today after St Patrick's Athletic took a big step towards securing their Premier Division status for next season with a badly-needed, but well-deserved, win over Shamrock Rovers.
Heroes have been hard to come by for Saints supporters this season but Conan Byrne is going higher and higher in the fans' estimation after another superb display, the Dublin-based teacher emerging as the architect of last night's win as his inch-perfect crosses provided the opportunities for Ian Bermingham and then Paul O'Conor to each score a headed goal in the first half.
Polish goalkeeper Lukasz Skowron also endeared himself to the Saints faithful with a string of second-half saves, at a stage when Rovers were beginning to dominate in front of a Dublin derby crowd of 2,361.
It's been a nervy season for the Saints, and probably will be until the last day of the campaign, and while this win sees them move from tenth place up to the relative safety of eighth, Liam Buckley's side simply cannot relent in their final four games of the season if they are to stay up.
But home form breeds hope as they now have four wins from their last four league games, and wins in Inchicore in battles to come against Limerick and champions-elect Cork City could, indeed should, get them over the line.
Rovers have been in blistering form in the league of late but the side, led from the touchline last night by assistant manager Glenn Cronin as head coach Stephen Bradley was unavoidably occupied on a coaching course, struggled to match the Saints for tempo for long spells.
It took Pat's only 19 minutes to go in front. A goal from captain Bermingham is rare, a headed one even rarer, but the ex-Rovers player showed real poise when he rose to meet a cross from Conan Byrne, following a quick free by Killian Brennan, and Hoops keeper Tomer Chencinski was left grasping for air.
The Saints could have been 2-0 up on the half-hour mark, as only a block on the line by Roberto Lopes denied Christy Fagan his second goal in the space of four days, but the home side did manage to nab a second goal before the half-time whistle, another header set up by a Conan Byrne cross, this time O'Conor with his first goal for the club on 42 minutes.
Rovers were capable of posing some questions, Pat's requiring Dutch defender Jordi Balk to clear from a shot by Cameron King while in first-half stoppage time, Skowron pulled off a stunning save to keep out what looked like a certain goal from Ryan Connolly.
Rovers threw on Aaron Bolger and James Doona early in the second half and they added some zest to their play, Doona testing keeper Skowron who saved that shot and a follow-up effort from Gary Shaw, a one-handed save then denying Lopes.
Hoops keeper Tomer Chencinski was also busy late on against a confident-looking Saints outfit who now hope to stay up.
St Pat's - Skowron; Kelly, Desmond, Balk, Bermingham; Garvan, Brennan; C Byrne (Turner, 89), O'Conor, B Dennehy (Markey, 63); Fagan (K Byrne, 85).
Rovers - Chencinski; Madden, Lopes, Grace, Byrne; Webster (Doona, 57); Connolly, Finn, Miele, King (Bolger, 46); Shaw.
Ref - P McLaughlin