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Billy King banishes the curse to fire St Pat's to victory over Cork City

Saints manager Stephen O’Donnell has his first home victory – and goal – but the win is overshadowed by a serious injury suffered by defender Oliver Younger.

Billy King scores the winner into the top corner.
Billy King scores the winner into the top corner.
Image: Brian Reilly-Troy/INPHO

St Patrick’s Athletic 1

Cork City 0

David Sneyd reports from Richmond Park

SO MUCH FOR there being a curse.

Billy King was presented with the St Patrick’s Athletic player-of-the-month award for February before kick-off.

Those of a superstitious nature would then expect to have a stinker after such good fortune. Not so for Billy King.

The Scot struck a sweet winner for the Saints in the 56th minute, beating the offside trap with a run from his position on the left.

He saw the space open up, midfielder Lee Desmond saw the pass and, more importantly, delivered it perfectly.

King had the freedom of Richmond Park. He took one touch to open his body and another to side-foot his effort into the far top corner beyond Mark McNulty. It was all so simple.

Yet this was the first goal St Pat’s supporters have seen in five home games since manager Stephen O’Donnell took over at the back end of the last campaign. A late head injury suffered to centre back Olivier Younger put a serious dampener on the mood, however, but this was still three points badly needed.

st-patricks-athletic-players-celebrate-billy-kings-goal St Pat's players celebrate King's winner. Source: Brian Reilly-Troy/INPHO

It didn’t take long to see what Neale Fenn’s game plan was.

Frustrate.

Annoy.

Dig in.

They had battled to a tense win at home to Finn Harps last Friday using much of those same traits, but they rarely looked capable of striking on the break here.

Dylan McGlade attempted a cheeky chip from 30 yards when he sprung the offside trap on 26 minutes but, had he just backed himself to take the ball into the space ahead of him, there might have been a far easier chance.

For the opening 45 minutes, Cork’s stubbornness worked a treat, mostly because the tactics were absolutely perfect against a St Pat’s side that were laboured in possession around the middle third and, when they were able to penetrate down the flanks, there was little in the way of a forward presence to cause any harm.

Robbie Benson was a loss to the hosts in midfield, in his place coming Dan Ward, while the suspended Rory Feely was replaced by Dean Clarke at right back. Neither seemed the ideal fit.

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Shane Griffin, a title winner with Cork in 2017 (the only one the pitch for the away side was goalkeeper McNulty), made his first start at left-back for O’Donnell, the peculiar sight of club captain Ian Bermingham sitting on the bench while fit needing some getting used to.

athletics-oliver-younger Oliver Younger went off with a serious head injury in the second half. Source: Brian Reilly-Troy/INPHO

That is what O’Donnell is attempting to do in the job: make this Pat’s side his own. Players were told during the winter that they were surplus to requirements and should find new clubs.

One of those, goalkeeper Brendan Clarke, persevered and now finds himself as the current Number 1. The experienced Saints stalwart showed just why the rookie boss was compelled to return the jersey to him when he smothered the danger in the box to deny Cian Coleman what looked like a certain goal just two minutes after King gave Pat’s the lead.

Daire O’Connor had hooked a delightful pass over the top for Coleman to break onto. In a rare foray forward, the midfielder found himself with the goal at his mercy only for Clarke to make a fantastic low block.

King had given the hosts the lead by that point, curling a delicious effort into the top corner, and the former Rangers man looks to be the find of the winter for O’Donnell.

Operating off the left flank, the Scot was the one player who looked capable of providing a cutting edge in the final third. He showed his class with his finish for the only goal of the game, and he did so again in the 67th minute when his whipped cross into the box was met by Rennie with a header that cannoned off the cross bar.

Then came a moment of serious worry, which led to 10 minutes of stoppage time at the end of the regulation 90. Younger was left prone on the turf after what looked to be a clash of heads with Cork sub Reyon Dillon.

The on-loan Burnley defender was stretchered off after lengthy treatment and he was at least moving his arms having seemingly been knocked unconscious moments earlier.

Dillon should have snatched a point in the fourth minute of injury time but he somehow headed a simple chance over the bar in the middle of the six-yard box.

It summed up a sorry night for Cork, one which provided plenty of relief for Pat’s boss O’Donnell.

St Patrick’s Athletic: Brendan Clarke; Dean Clarke, Oliver Younger (Jamie Lennon 80), Luke McNally, Shane Griffin (Ian Bermingham 87); Jason McClelland (James Doona 85), Dan Ward, Lee Desmond, Chris Forrester (captain), Billy King; Martin Rennie.

Cork City: Mark McNulty (captain); Charlie Fleming, Joseph Olowu, Joe Redmond, Ronan Hurley; Alec Byrne, Henry Ochieng (Cory Galvin 78), Cian Coleman; Daire O’Connor, Beineon O’Brien Whitmarsh (Reyon Dillon 70), Dylan McGlade (Cian Murphy 94).

Referee: Derek Tomney (Dublin).

Attendance: 2,078

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