Friday 23 February 2018

Saints' mean streak to fore as goals dry up for Fingal

ST PATrick'S ATH 0 Sporting FINGAL 0 Daniel McDonnell

A night of abstinence at Richmond Park, with the goals drying up in this Dublin derby.

This fixture pitted a free-scoring Sporting Fingal side against a Saints team yet to concede in the league. It's the first time in the Inchicore club's long history that they have conceded no goals in their first five games.

They were helped to protect that statistic last night by some erratic finishing from the visitors, who shaded proceedings.

Given the manner in which the Saints rolled over so many times on their own turf last year, the locals were content enough at the final whistle and they travel to meet champions Bohemians on Tuesday in good form. Fingal, on the other hand, will look to sharpen the shooting boots before their Easter Monday clash with Shamrock Rovers.

They will take heart from the manner in which they performed against opposition who are a step-up from Bray and Drogheda -- both comfortably dispatched in recent weeks.

Liam Buckley's troops looked the part in the first half, with St Patrick's Athletic boss Pete Mahon admitting that his team were under the cosh. With their familiar 4-3-3, the newly promoted north Dubliners were that bit slicker in possession with St Pat's cast in the role of counter-attackers.

That said, for all the clever inter-play, particularly around midfield with Shane McFaul and Shaun Williams prominent, Fingal struggled to craft openings in the final third. Their clearest chance fell to Eamonn Zayed, who drifted in from his left-sided forward berth to head over the crossbar with the Saints defence caught ball-watching.

The fine start to the season at Inchicore has been constructed on the aforementioned solid foundation. With Stuart Byrne and Dave Mulcahy planted in front of the back four, they are difficult to penetrate. Fingal tried to spread the play, but struggled to pick the right final ball in a first half notable for some meaty challenges, with Zayed, whose side also had vain claims for a penalty refused, engaged in heated discussion with referee Anthony Buttimer en route to the dressing-room.

Clearly, the Saints management pressed home their message at the interval as they emerged to finally impose themselves on the game. A strong spell nearly yielded an opener, with Ryan Guy's purposeful run and cross finding Alex Williams, who blasted wide. Seconds later, a Ger O'Brien intervention denied Williams, the Scotsman recruited from Dundalk over the winter.

Brendan Clarke's goal was finally under the spotlight, and the ex-Saints man even had a firework thrown in his general direction with the moronic culprit duly identified and ejected.

However, Fingal responded with the best move of the match, inspired by the ambition of full-back O'Brien, with Zayed teeing up O'Neill who was denied by the feet of Gary Rogers.

Guy duly threatened at the other end, but there was an inevitability about the way this match was going despite both benches sending for reinforcements. Zayed was off target with another header, with Fingal finishing strongly with further claims for a penalty waved away.

Buttimer made the right call, with Keith Quinn legally dispossessed by Brian Cash.

Alan Kirby's long-range attempt in time added on stung the palms of Rogers, yet it was a speculative attempt which summed up the evening. Neat build-up, but no end product.

St Patrick's Athletic -- Rogers, Pender, Kenna, Guthrie, Bermingham; McAllister (Cash 57), Byrne, Mulcahy, Guy; Williams (Doyle 90), Faherty (Byrne 78)

Sporting Fingal -- Clarke, O'Brien, Maher, Browne, Frost; Williams, McFaul, Kirby; Byrne (Quinn 72), O'Neill (Crowe 79), Zayed.

Ref -- A Buttimer (Cork).

Irish Independent

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