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Saints looking towards a European spot as Clarke and Byrne deliver all three points

Goals from Dean Clarke and Thomas Byrne earned St Pat’s all three points against Sligo on Tuesday night.

Thomas Byrne celebrates scoring a late penalty with team-mates.
Thomas Byrne celebrates scoring a late penalty with team-mates.
Image: Morgan Treacy/INPHO

St Patrick’s Athletic 2

Sligo Rovers 0

Aaron Gallagher reports from Richmond Park

ST PATRICK’S ATHLETIC secured their third win on the bounce on Tuesday night, as Dean Clarke’s fourth league goal of the season combined with a late Thomas Byrne penalty earned an important three points against Sligo Rovers at Richmond Park.

The win comes at the beginning of a pivotal seven days for the Saints, as they now face into games against Derry City on Friday and rivals Shamrock Rovers next Tuesday knowing the prospect of laying claim to a European position is firmly within reach.

The 2013 Premier Division champions have gone without the prestige and added financial incentive of European competition for the last two seasons. However this recent purple patch has demonstrated that their immediate intentions lie firmly with bringing such big nights back to Inchicore again in the near future.

Dean Clarke scored the breakthrough goal six minutes after half-time against a Sligo side which has just four wins from 17 games so far this season, with Byrne making sure of the victory with a penalty in the final minute.

Manager Liam Buckley fielded a number of promising young prospects, including 20-year-old Darragh Markey and 20-year-old Jamie Lennon, however for the third game running it was goalscorer, 19-year-old Byrne who impressed playing as a striker in the absence of both Christy Fagan and Jake Keegan — the latter who started from the bench.

St. Patrick's Athletic players celebrate Dean Clarke's goal Dean Clarke celebrates with team-mates after giving St Pat's the lead. Source: Morgan Treacy/INPHO

Conan Byrne almost opened the scoring inside five minutes when dazzling dribbling play from Markey saw the ball fed towards the back post for what looked like an easy tap-in. Byrne, however, could only see his effort deflected wide for a corner, as the hosts imposed an early spell of dominance.

Chances went as quickly as they came for St Pat’s, with Sligo slowly coming into the game approaching the half-hour mark courtesy of captain Kyle Callan-McFadden, who kept his opponents at bay almost single-handedly with repeated last-gasp blocks from all angles in defence.

He very nearly broke the deadlock at the other end, forcing a fine save from goalkeeper Barry Murphy, before ex-Liverpool man Adam Morgan could only dash the ball back across goal.

The Bit O’Red made a more even game of it thereafter, Callum Waters curling a long-range effort just shy of the top corner and winger Adam Wixted forcing another excellent stop from Murphy with a strike which looked all but certain for the top corner.

Murphy enjoyed a superb outing in this game, with this result a fifth clean sheet in his last eight Premier Division appearances for St Pat’s.

It was his opposite number who was forced to pick the ball out of the net shortly after the interval, as forward Clarke stole the lead with a pinpoint low strike inside the box, owing to a spell of patient, steady build-up play.

A general view of the game Source: Morgan Treacy/INPHO

Indeed it was a goal made possible by the excellent combination play of Markey and Thomas Byrne, who held up play long enough on their own for support to arrive in the shape of Simon Madden. The full back had gone completely untracked, took possession smartly off Byrne inside the box, before crossing.

The ball travelled all the way towards the back post, where Clarke stamped ownership of possession, pausing momentarily to gather his composure, before slamming the ball low beyond the grasp of on-loan Chelsea goalkeeper Mitchell Benney to make it 1-0.

The visitors had chances aplenty to draw the scores level and snatch a late share of the spoils, but ultimately none of them could be converted. Wixted tried his luck with a curled effort on his left boot, but it missed the target as St Pat’s continued to push for a second.

With a minute left on the clock, a clumsy challenge on substitute Keegan saw referee Rob Hennessey point to the spot. Killian Brennan scored a memorable late spot kick against Shamrock Rovers at this ground less than a fortnight ago, but this time around the midfielder was happy to pass the responsibility on to fellow Louth man Byrne.

The teenager shot towards the bottom corner with power and pace. Despite goalkeeper Beeney getting a strong right hand to the effort, it managed to crawl over the line and into the bottom corner; making it 2-0 on the night and confirming a third win in a row for the Saints.

ST PATRICK’S ATHLETIC: Barry Murphy; Simon Madden, Lee Desmond, Kevin Toner, Ian Bermingham; Jamie Lennon (Killian Brennan 60), Ryan Brennan, Darragh Markey (Graham Kelly 83); Conan Byrne, Thomas Byrne, Dean Clarke (Jake Keegan 55)

SLIGO ROVERS: Mitchell Beeney; Gary Boylan, John Mahon, Kyle Callan-McFadden, Calum Waters; Rhys McCabe, Caolan McAleer (Alastair Roy 59), Jack Keaney; Greg Moorhouse (Lewis Morrison 68), Adam Morgan, Adam Wixted (Raffaele Cretaro 81)

Referee: Robert Hennessey

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Aaron Gallagher

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