St Pat's and Dundalk cannot be separated at Richmond Park
St Patrick's Athletic 0 Dundalk 0
AMASSING five clean sheets in a row would normally be good news for a trophy- hungry side like Dundalk.
But Stephen Kenny’s side have been unable to match their defensive meanness with a cutting edge up front as a scoreless draw away to a steely St Patrick’s Athletic last night leaves them still playing catch-up to Cork City and an impressive-looking Waterford, the sides who make up the top two.
Dundalk have been unable to score in three of their five league matches to date this season, fans yearning for the nights when someone like Richie Towell or Daryl Horgan would pop up with a goal.
Yet the Saints will not be unhappy with their work over the last few days, four points gained (and no goals conceded) in battles with Bohemians and Dundalk.
But the fact is that, in front of a gate of 1,609 punters, neither side was good enough to win this tie last night, the keepers having a relatively quiet night where quality was hard to find.
Pat’s are hugely improved on last season and if the impressive Darragh Markey can get a run of games and let his talent blossom, the Saints will expect to pick up at least some points in the looming battles with the Rovers (the Shamrock variety on Friday, Sligo a few days later).
The Saints had kept their first clean sheet of the season just days earlier, their 1-0 win away to Bohemians, but they knew it would be a lot harder to keep Dundalk at bay here and make it two games in a row without conceding.
Dundalk had the ball in the Saints half for long spells, and as the first half wore on it seemed as if they would wear down Liam Buckley’s side, two goal-line clearances needed from Pat’s.
Dundalk had threatened as early as the 11th minute when a fine ball from Sean Gannon set up a chance for Pat Hoban, but Barry Murphy came up with the save that was needed.
Kenny’s side had possession but lacked the cutting edge to carve out chances, while at the other end Gary Rogers in the Dundalk goal was a spectator.
Chances came Dundalk’s way, first when Dan Cleary saw his header cleared off the line by Darragh Markey on 39 minutes and a minute later it was Kevin Tonerclearing on the line to deny Ronan Murray.
Pat’s had soaked up a good deal of pressure but, instead of clinging on by their fingernails, they looked comfortableand in the second half they came out of their shell and took the game to Dundalk.
Ian Bermingham showed attacking intent early in the second half when he did well to get in a cross, Chris Fagan unable to make it count.
On the hour mark Dundalk came closest to the goal they needed. Awarded a free kick following Owen Garvan’s foul on Michael Duffy, Ronan Murray stepped up to take the kick and struck the crossbar, Murphy’s goal remaining intact.
The Saints again grew in confidence, sensing the opportunity of a first home win of the season. On 67 minutes Ryan Brennan saw his header go just over the bar, and three minutes later defender Kevin Toner flashed a header wide, Conan Byrne the provider.
On 73 minutes a ball from Fagan almost set up an opportunity for Byrne but ex-Saint Sean Hoare was on hand to snuff out the threat.
Dundalk boss Kenny looked to his bench to try and figure out a way to goal, the exotic arrivals as subs of a Hungarian, a Nigerian and a Lithuanian, but at the final whistle it was the home fans who sounded happier.
St Pat's: Barry Murphy; Simon Madden, Kevin Toner, Lee Desmond, Ian Bermingham; Owen Garvan, Ryan Brennan; Conan Byrne (Ian Turner 83), Darragh Markey (Graham Kelly 90), Dean Clarke; Christy Fagan (Jake Keegan 90).
Dundalk: Gary Rogers; Sean Gannon, Dan Cleary, Sean Hoare, Dane Massey; Chris Shields (Karolis Chvedukas 82), Robbie Benson; Dylan Connolly, Ronan Murray (Krisztian Adorjan 71), Michael Duffy; Patrick Hoban (Marco Tagbajumi 74).