Rovers players celebrate scoring. Evan Treacy/INPHO

Late drama as Shamrock Rovers overcome Pat's in Dublin Derby

Stephen Bradley’s men remain top of the table after their win tonight.

Shamrock Rovers 3

St Patrick’s Athletic 2

GOALS FROM Lee Grace and Richie Towell (2) were the difference as Shamrock Rovers’ resolve was seriously tested by a dogged St Patrick’s Athletic outfit in the Premier Division this evening.

Mark Doyle had given the Saints the lead before substitute Ben McCormack looked to have earned them a late point, but man-of-the-match Towell had the final say as his coolly taken penalty in the dying minutes saw Rovers earn all three points and stay top of the table.

It was the type of performance befitting of champions, as Stephen Bradley’s men recovered from the concession of a late goal to hit straight back down the other end as stoppage time approached.

After a slow start, the Hoops reached the Premier Division’s summit for the first time this season following a 3-0 win away to UCD on Friday.

Pat’s, who were in sixth place going into this evening’s match, have had a more inconsistent start, with manager Tim Clancy recently departing owing to their indifferent form.

However, there had been signs of improvement from the Richmond Park outfit of late, with last Friday’s win at home to Drogheda having made it back-to-back victories under interim boss Jon Daly.

Rovers made a total of six changes from the defeat of the Students. Lee Grace, Gary O’Neill, Richie Towell, Rory Gaffney, Neil Farrugia and Jack Byrne all came into the side while Sean Hoare, Darragh Nugent, Johnny Kenny, Markus Poom, Aaron Greene and Trevor Clarke made way.

For Pat’s, Vladislav Kreida, Jake Mulraney and Conor Carty were replaced in the starting XI by Tom Grivosti, Jason McClelland and Eoin Doyle.

It was the third time the teams had met this season, with the last fixture at Tallaght ending in a 2-2 draw while Rovers won the Richmond game 2-0.

It was a slow opening 15 minutes with both sides struggling to acquire rhythm to their play and chances at a premium.

The Saints had a decent opening shortly thereafter. Jamie Lennon won the ball with a strong challenge deep in Rovers territory before Chris Forrester sent Jason McClelland through on goal but Roberto Lopes did well to get back and make a well-timed last-ditch challenge.

Rovers had started sluggishly and were duly punished in the 28th minute as Pat’s got a goal out of nothing.

The ball broke for Mark Doyle on the edge of the area after Graham Burke initially lost possession and the attacker’s pot-shot took a wicked deflection off Lopes, leaving Leon Pohls bamboozled as it crept into the corner of the net.

Rovers were still struggling to create clear-cut chances but upped the tempo as the first half drew to a close — Ronan Finn sliced a half-chance wide from the edge of the area after good, patient build-up play.

Just before the break, the extra pressure told. After Graham Burke’s powerful strike was tipped over the bar by Dean Lyness, Byrne’s ensuing corner was powerfully headed home by Grace as the sides went in all square at the break.

The second period remained tight — Rovers dictated the play but struggled to seriously test Lyness for long periods.

The visitors, meanwhile, were posing a sporadic threat, with Eoin Doyle glancing a header wide from McClelland’s free kick.

With the game experiencing a lull, Pat’s introduced Serge Atakayi and Jake Mulraney in place of McClelland and Mark Doyle to try to inject more energy into their attack.

However, it was the hosts who took the lead moments later.

Ronan Finn’s inviting clipped cross was headed home by Richie Towell at the far post to put Rovers ahead for the first time.

The Hoops were still largely in the ascendancy after the goal but had a let-off with 15 minutes to go.

Lyness hoofed the ball up the pitch and Farrugia, the last man back, underhit an attempted backpass.

The speedy Atakayi latched on to it, but couldn’t capitalise, with his finish going just wide of the post.

Daly’s men continued to pose a threat thereafter, with Jay McGrath heading Mulraney’s corner just wide.

And their persistence paid off with five minutes remaining. Leon Pohls would have been disappointed not to do better, as he could only parry Sam Curtis’ shot into the path of McCormack, who slotted into the empty net,

Yet the reigning champions responded to that setback immediately.

Towell’s powerful shot from the edge of the box was parried and substitute Johnny Kenny was fouled by Tom Grivoisti as he attempted to slot the loose ball into the empty net, with Jack Byrne subsequently converting but the spot kick had already been awarded.

Up stepped Towell and he made no mistake to send the Rovers fans wild as the game entered into added time and end the contest in dramatic fashion.

Shamrock Rovers: 25. Leon Pohls 6. Daniel Cleary 4. Roberto Lopes 5. Lee Grace 8. Ronan Finn (Kavanagh 79) 23. Neil Farrugia 16. Gary O’Neill 17. Richie Towell 29. Jack Byrne 10. Graham Burke (Poom 79) 20. Rory Gaffney (Kenny 79)

Subs: 30. Toms Leitis 2. Sean Gannon 3. Sean Hoare 9. Aaron Greene 11. Sean Kavanagh 15. Darragh Nugent 19. Markus Poom 24. Johnny Kenny 34. Conor Noonan

St Patrick’s Athletic: 36. Dean Lyness 22. Sam Curtis 26. Jay McGarth (Lonergan 90) 3. Anthony Breslin 6. Jamie Lennon 5. Tom Grivosti 8. Chris Forrester 24. Adam Murphy (McCormack 74) 14. Mark Doyle (Mulraney 66) 9. Eoin Doyle (Carty 74) 11. Jason McClelland (Atakayi 66).

Subs: 23. David Odumosu 2. Noah Lewis 7. Serge Atakayi 10. Thomas Lonergan 15. Conor Carty 18. Ben McCormack 20. Jake Mulraney 21. Carl Axel Sjoberg 25. Thijs Timmermans.

Referee: Damien MacGraith (Mayo)

Attendance: 6,212

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