St Patrick’s Athletic claimed another precious three points in their title chase when overcoming Dublin rivals Shelbourne by a solitary goal in their Airtricity League Premier Division encounter at Richmond Park.
In a nervy opening half, Dean Kelly spurned a glorious chance for the visitors in the 30th minute when shooting straight at Brendan Clarke from close range.
It proved telling, as the Saints grabbed the only goal of the game nine minutes later when Stephen Maher hammered the ball home from 20 yards after Conan Byrne had been blocked by Derek Doyle.
The Saints, given their wonderful result in Tallaght last Friday evening, were full of confidence from the outset, with Christopher Forrester shooting straight at Niall Burdon in the third minute following clever interplay between Killian Brennan and Anthony Flood.
There appeared genuine grounds for a penalty-kick eight minutes later when Brennan fell inside the area under a challenge from Stephen Hurley, but referee Paul McLaughlin was emphatic is his decision when dismissing the home protests.
That early pressure was maintained when last week’s four-goal hero Byrne manoeuvred cleverly down the right wing, but his inviting cross was turned away to safety by Robert Cornwall, under pressure from Forrester.
Despite ceding territory and possession all too readily, a compact Shelbourne outfit generally coped well with their defensive duties and Glenn Cronin showed their attacking threat when firing narrowly wide in the 22nd minute after Brendan Clarke had cleared a Sean Brennan corner-kick.
A degree of frustration was emanating from the home side as the half progressed.
Ger O’Brien attempted to ease the nerves but his powerful run ended in a left-footed shot that skewed wide from 20 yards.
Given their unease, it was of little surprise that it was the visitors that fashioned the first clear-cut opportunity on the half-hour mark with Dean Kelly contriving to hit the body of Clarke from three yards out following a glorious low centre from Hurley.
That miss was to prove especially costly as St Pat’s hit the front in the 39th minute. A diagonal ball from Greg Bolger released Byrne through on goal and although Derek Doyle intervened with a well-timed tackle, the ball ran straight to Maher who found the empty net from outside the area.
That score galvanised the hosts and Anthony Flood should have doubled their advantage in the 44th minute, but his chipped attempt cleared the crossbar after Byrne provided a defence-splitting pass.
The second half resumed in a similar vein, with the Saints on the front foot.
Flood shot tamely at Burdon from the edge of the area when allowed to run unopposed at the retreating Ian Ryan in the 51st minute.
The comfort of a second goal failed to materialise six minutes later as Forrester’s pull-back was spurned by Maher, with the ball bobbling harmlessly wide of Burdon’s right-hand upright.
The contest was largely played inside the Shelbourne half and substitute Christy Fagan dragged a half chance wide at the end of the third quarter, benefitting from the hosts’ complete dominance in midfield.
After the excellent Bolger had volleyed narrowly wide in the 71st minute, Byrne was more culpable three minutes later as his diving header from six yards sailed wide, with Bermingham once again the source of the opportunity.
The procession towards the away goal continued, with O’Brien slaloming his way through in the 87th minute, but Burdon blocked with his legs to keep his side’s feint hopes alive.
However, his efforts proved in vain as with his side toothless in attack, the Saints saw out the remainder in relative comfort.
St Patrick’s Athletic: Brendan Clarke; Ger O’Brien, Kenny Browne, Conor Kenna, Ian Bermingham; Conan Byrne, Stephen Maher (Sean Gannon, 85), Greg Bolger, Killian Brennan, Christopher Forrester (Jake Kelly, 82) ; Anthony Flood (Christy Fagan, 61).
Subs not used: Rene Gilmartin, Aidan Price, Lorcan Fitzgerald, Daryl Kavanagh.
Shelbourne: Niall Burdon; Robert Cornwall, Ian Ryan, Graham Gartland, Derek Doyle; Adam Hanlon, Glenn Cronin, Stephen Hurley (Gareth O’Connor, 72), Sean Brennan; Dean Kelly (Darren Tinnelly, 79), Lee Murtagh (Jamie McGlynn, 58).
Subs not used: Charlie Treacy, Brian Gannon, Paul Andrews, Carl Walsh.
Referee: Paul McLaughlin (Monaghan).