St Patrick’s Athletic had their lead trimmed at the summit of the Airtricity League Premier Division following a tense 0-0 draw against Drogheda United at Richmond Park.
Both Anthony Flood and Conan Byrne spurned early chances for the hosts with the latter striking the upright in the 28th minute while David Cassidy was well blocked by Brendan Clarke at the opposite end in the opening –half.
Drogheda were far more comfortable after the break and both Graham Rusk and Ryan Brennan were both foiled by Clarke before Aidan Price missed a glorious chance in the 86th minute for the Saints.
Predictably enough, it was the hosts who started on the front foot with full-back Ian Bermingham, making his 100th league appearance, making two sorties down the left-wing, reflecting the positivity inherent in the hosts’ approach.
His fellow full-back, Ger O’Brien, was equally prominent in the early exchanges with his speculative 25-yard shot arcing narrowly over the crossbar in the 9th minute.
The initial pressure was maintained during a positive opening from the Saints and Antony Flood should have opened the scoring in the 14th minute when scooping over from eight yards after Killian Brennan’s low shot had been half-blocked.
The hosts will feel aggrieved not to have been awarded a penalty kick in the 22nd minute when John Russell appeared to be impeded inside the area by Ryan Brennan but the theatricality of Russell’s movements mitigated against him.
Despite the poverty of their early play, it was United who spurned the best chance of the first quarter when Brennan found David Cassidy at the far post but the latter’s low volley from seven yards was well blocked by Brendan Clarke.
Normal service was resumed in the 28th minute and after Conan Byrne had fizzed a shot wide from 25 yards, the former Shelbourne player volleyed against the upright after Michael Schlingermann had foiled Flood following Killian Brennan’s sublime through ball.
Both Ryan Brennan and Russell came into close contact inside the away penalty area in the 37th minute as the former’s clumsy challenge upended Russell but once again, referee Derek Tomney remained unconvinced by Russell’s protestations.
The last action of an absorbing half saw Graham Rusk escape down the right wing and his pinpoint cross looked primed for the in-rushing Peter Hynes but Kenny Browne made a timely intervention when clearing superbly under pressure.
The theme of the opening-half was maintained upon the restart and after a Killian Brennan had been half-cleared, Greg Bolger fired a powerful half-volley a foot over Schlingermann’s crossbar in the 50th minute.
However, as the contest developed, United drew greater belief from the increasing frustration evident in the home display and Rusk headed wastefully over on the hour mark following a short corner routine involving Gavin Brennan and Cassidy.
Chances ensued for Drogheda as they scented a precious three points in their relegation battle with Rusk shooting straight at Clarke in the 64th minute before Ryan Brennan was equally wasteful four minutes later as increasing sloppiness permeated the St Pat’s performance.
The imperious Browne almost eased the tension in the 73rd minute but his back-post header from Brennan’s free-kick was well blocked by Schlingermann with a set-piece looking the hosts’ most viable option at this juncture.
Seven minutes later, substitute Christy Fagan drilled an audacious attempt wide of Schlingermann’s right-hand upright with the final chance of a disappointing second-half display falling to centre-half Aidan Price, who headed over from close range after a fine delivery from Brennan.
St Patrick’s Athletic: Brendan Clarke; Ger O’Brien, Kenny Browne, Aidan Price, Ian Bermingham; Conan Byrne (Daryl Kavanagh, 90), John Russell, Greg Bolger, Killian Brennan, Christopher Forrester (Jake Kelly, 80); Anthony Flood (Christy Fagan, 70).
Drogheda United: Michael Schlingermann; Mick Daly, Derek Prendergast, Alan McNally, Shane Grimes; Graham Rusk, Ryan Brennan, David Cassidy (Declan O’Brien, 74), Alan Byrne, Gavin Brennan; Peter Hynes (Gary O’Neill, 61).
Referee: Derek Tomney (Dublin)