Sligo Rovers took a significant step towards the League of Ireland title without kicking a ball after their two nearest challengers shared the points in an enthralling 0-0 draw at Hunky Dorys Park.
Drogs goalkeeper Gabriel Sava was the hero of the night as he made a series of fine saves, while the Inchicore side were made to rue some poor finishing.
Sava’s best save in the first half came when he advanced smartly from his goal to boot the ball clear from Christy Fagan, while Drogheda’s Gavin Brennan had a shot blocked by a defender at the other end.
It was all Pat’s in the second period, but Sava stood firm to deny Greg Bolger, Sean O’Connor, Ian Bermingham and substitute Chris Forrester.
There was great anticipation about this, the third meeting in two weeks between the sides, so it was surprising to witness such a flat opening quarter, with neither keeper tested.
The visitors perhaps shaded it at that point thanks to a header from Jake Kelly which rose high over the bar, but the game had ticked into the 23rd minute when Pats keeper Brendan Clarke finally got a meaningful touch, comfortably holding a driven Gavin Brennan cross.
A sliced clearance by Gavin’s brother Sean presented Kelly with a great chance, but the winger blasted high and wide and Drogheda almost made Pat’s play when the ball broke to Gavin Brennan from a corner kick and his fierce drive was blocked by a defender.
Christy Fagan then beat the offside trap and got in on goal, but Drogs keeper Gabriel Sava read the danger and advanced outside his area to boot the ball clear.
Fagan then escaped from his marker and was picked out by the cross of Kelly, only to volley wide, with Sava beaten on that occasion.
The Boynesiders had a good spell coming up to half-time and Gavin Brennan sent a diving header wide from a Philip Hand cross, before Hand grazed the crossbar with a curling free kick.
But in the final seconds of the half the visitors passed up another good opportunity, Pat Flynn nodding wide from a corner kick after being left unmarked from an O’Connor corner.
Drogheda’s exertions in winning the EA Sports Cup seemed to take their toll in the second half as the visitors took a firm grip on the game, and Sava had to save a stinging shot from O’Connor before Greg Bolger fired wide with the goal gaping.
On 69 minutes Bolger was through again and this time Sava had to react smartly to parry the midfielder’s shot, before the number 6 had a snap shot blocked by the keeper at point-blank range.
Liam Buckley had all three subs on at this stage as the visitors chased a late winner against a tiring Drogheda and there were two opportunities in the final moments, but Sava stood firm to save from Forrester and Ian Bermingham.
Drogheda United: Gabriel Sava; Brian Gannon, Alan McNally, Derek Prendergast, Philip Hand; Sean Brennan (Cathal Brady 71), Ryan Brennan, Paul Crowley, Eric Foley, Gavin Brennan; Peter Hynes (Tiarnan Mulvenna 90).
St Patrick’s Athletic: Barry Murphy; Ger O’Brien, Conor Kenna (Kenny Browne 46), Pat Flynn, Ian Bermingham; Sean O’Connor, Greg Bolger, James Chambers, Jake Carroll, Jake Kelly (Chris Forrester 61), Christy Fagan (Vinny Faherty 81).
Referee: Padraigh Sutton (Clare).