Kian Leavy celebrates scoring with his teammates. Ryan Byrne/INPHO

Youngster Leavy stars as St Pat's secure European football for next season

Stephen Bradley and his assistant Glenn Cronin were interested spectators as the Saints overcame Sligo.

St Patrick’s Athletic 1

Sligo Rovers 0

Paul Buttner reports from Richmond Park

KIAN LEAVY capped an inspired display with a cracking winner to book a ticket to next summer’s Europa Conference League for St Patrick’s Athletic.

The midfielder’s first-half strike was enough to see off struggling Sligo Rovers at Richmond Park to move St Pat’s up to second in the Premier Division table, three points behind Shamrock Rovers, though with a game more played.

And with Hoops’ manager Stephen Bradley and his assistant Glenn Cronin interested spectators on the night, that sets up a mouthwatering top-of-the-table clash back in Inchicore on Friday.

A win for St Pat’s then would bring the league to the last day. A Rovers victory, and in all probability, such is their superior goal difference, a draw, would deliver a record-equalling four-in-a-row league titles.

Defeat means Sligo’s hugely disappointing season sees them still not clear of the relegation play-off place with two games to play.

Despite the heavy conditions in constant rain, St Patrick’s started on the front foot, Leavy working some space to rifle a shot not far over on six minutes.

But Sligo came to play, stretching the home side on several occasions in the following minutes.

Playing as their loan striker, Fabrice Hartmann collected Kailin Barlow’s ball down the left to turn David Norman one way and then the other before bringing a good stop with his feet from Dean Lyness.

Minutes later Lyness again had to react well to tip over Barlow’s looping header from a Johan Brannefalk cross.

The danger remained, though, as Garry Buckley’s header from the resulting corner struck his own captain David Cawley dead in front of goal before he was penalised for a handball as Saints survived.

Within a minute the home side were working visiting goalkeeper Richard Brush when a Sam Curtis cross took a deflection to drop for Conor Carty whose header had to be tipped over the top.

Brush then excelled with a terrific save with his feet to deprive Carty who latched onto a loose Will Fitzgerald pass before skipping all too easily past Buckley to bear down on goal.

The veteran ‘keeper was there once again with an even better stop on 34 minutes, getting down brilliantly to his right to push away Jay McClelland’s drive following a skilful break forward by the impressive Leavy.

But the 38-year-old was left rooted to the spot three minutes later as St Pat’s’ pressure told.

Curtis and Jamie Lennon interchanged passes to work the ball inside to Leavy. The former Reading recruit cut past a static Niall Morahan before striking a shot that took a slight deflection off Cawley to find the top corner of the net for his first goal for the club.

Though St Patrick’s dominated the ball after the interval, they struggled to create much in the heavy conditions in a slow burner of the second half.

It was the 80th minute before we had a shot on target. And that fell to a rejuvenated Sligo when chasing the game late on.

But as in the first half, Lyness kept his goal intact, saving well with his feet to deny Barlow.

St Patrick’s Athletic: Lyness; Curtis, Redmond, Norman, Breslin; Lennon, Leavy (Murphy, 71); McClelland (Nolan, 79), Forrester, Doyle; Carty (Lonergan, 71)

Sligo Rovers: Brush; Brannefalk, Mahon, Buckley, Pijnaker, Fitzgerald (Martello, 68); Morahan, Cawley (Liivak, 68); O’Sullivan, Hartmann (Radosavljevic, 72), Barlow.

Referee: Eoghan O’Shea (Tipperary).

Attendance: 3,117.

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