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Dublin: 5°C Thursday 25 February 2021

Saints drop points for the first time this season as dogged Finn Harps leave Dublin with a point

Both sides earned a point in a tight affair at Richmond Park on Monday.

Lee Desmond tackles Finn Harps forward Nathan Boyle.
Lee Desmond tackles Finn Harps forward Nathan Boyle.
Image: Laszlo Geczo/INPHO

St Patrick’s Athletic 0

Finn Harps 0

Aaron Gallagher reports from Richmond Park

AS HIS SIDE made their second trip to Dublin in the space of 10 days, Ollie Horgan said his men were anticipating a “hell of a battle” against St Pat’s if Finn Harps were to get anything out of Monday night’s game.

A battle this proved to be in a nitty-gritty, stop-start 0-0 stalemate which offered both sides another point each in the Premier Division standings, but a battle which also left a few onlookers at Richmond Park somewhat disappointed by the lack of clinical action in front of either goal throughout. This game was far from attritional, but both sides just managed to nullify the other.

Captain Ian Bermingham and Chris Forrester dropped out of Harry Kenny’s starting XI and the pair’s consistent attacking output was missed by the hosts early doors, as Pat’s failed to create any lasting, clinical attacking threat in the final third during a frustrating opening half in Inchicore.

Sean Boyd and Rhys McCabe Finn Harps' Sean Boyd and Rhys McCabe of St. Patrick's Athletic. Source: Laszlo Geczo/INPHO

Many Pat’s supporters were hoping that Mikey Drennan would make it three goals in as many games, after he scored winners against Cork City here on the opening night of the season and away to his old club Sligo three nights ago — a dramatic, powerful header in the 92nd minute.

But Drennan, paired with the returning Gary Shaw back from a hamstring setback, struggled to strike up a fluid partnership despite their best efforts, and in a lacklustre opening 45 minutes Harps goalkeeper Peter Burke was best tested by Rhys McCabe just past the 20 minute mark.

Sitting alongside Jamie Lennon and Conor Clifford in a 3-5-2 formation, McCabe was happy to carry possession forward and drive at a Harps backline which was patrolled diligently by Sam Todd and Keith Cowan in the centre of defence.

McCabe got on the end of an appealing, fluid passing move which started when Drennan was forced to drop deep and collect possession. The striker picked out Shaw who, despite time and space giving him the chance to shoot, instead offloaded to his team-mate behind him.

The Scottish-born midfield engine whacked a powerful effort right towards goal, but it flew over the crossbar before it had any chance to come back down to earth and properly force Burke into any type of save.

Kevin Toner and Nathan Boyle Kevin Toner and Nathan Boyle battle for the ball. Source: Laszlo Geczo/INPHO

Kevin Toner’s header almost had the net in front of the shed rippling before it took a deflection, and a busy night patrolling up and down the right wing by Simon Madden almost saw his deep cross converted — only to be missed at the back post by both Shaw and defender Ciaran Kelly.

Kenny’s men were enjoying the lion’s share of possession and impetus to go forward, but had just as much to show for their efforts as Harps. Although limited to odd chances here and there, a tall and imposing attacking duo led by Nathan Boyle and Sean Boyd did cause some trouble.

In a neat combination play just outside Brendan Clarke’s box, a long ball coming back down to earth was controlled excellently by the right foot of Boyle with a clever flick. That put the ball on an inviting silver platter for Boyd to strike, but his low effort was denied by a last-ditch block from Lee Desmond, who captained the Saints in the absence of Bermingham.

Harps grabbed an impressive point at home to defending champions Dundalk three nights ago in Ballybofey and, arriving out for the second half at Richmond Park, sensed that another point — if not all three — could potentially be within their grasp.

Boyd very nearly put Ollie Horgan’s men ahead shortly after the break. A corner swung in by Mark Coyle met the drifting run of the 20-year-old striker at the front post, and but for a matter of inches his header could have found Clarke’s unguarded bottom corner.

David Webster and Nathan Boyle David Webster and Boyle in action at Richmond Park on Monday night. Source: Laszlo Geczo/INPHO

Brandon Miele and Forrester were introduced off the bench in place of Shaw and McCabe, as Kenny instructed his side to continue attacking and not be content to settle for a point in a season where the Saints are seeking to bring European football back to Inchicore.

Conor Clifford shot wide from distance, as Todd and O’Reilly continued to keep their side’s clean sheet firmly intact with half an hour remaining, and another headed effort from young defender Kelly just flew wide.

The home crowd almost exploded into celebration when Drennan caused the net to ripple late on with a rifled shot from a tricky, acute angle. But their cheers were premature as the striker turned away in disappointment — his effort only managing to find the side-netting.

The vocal contingent of Harps supporters, too, thought they had snatched all three points right at the death. A corner crossed in by second half substitute Caolan McAleer found David O’Reilly completely free, but his header flew right into the arms of goalkeeper Clarke.

ST PATRICK’S ATHLETIC: Brendan Clarke; Simon Madden, David Webster, Kevin Toner, Lee Desmond, Ciaran Kelly (James Doona 82); Jamie Lennon, Conor Clifford, Rhys McCabe (Chris Forrester 71); Mikey Drennan, Gary Shaw (Brandon Miele 59)

FINN HARPS: Peter Burke; John Kavanagh (Mikey Pace 85), David O’Reilly, Sam Todd, Keith Cowan, Jacob Borg; Gareth Harkin, Mark Coyle, Niall McGinley (Caolan McAleer 79); Sean Boyd, Nathan Boyle (Raffaele Cretaro 61)

Referee: Graham Kelly

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About the author:

Aaron Gallagher

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