Ronan Hale's 90th-minute winner secured St Patrick Athletic a huge three points in their bid to finish in the European places in the SSE Airtricity League Premier Division as they defeated Cork City 1-0 at Turner’s Cross on Friday evening.
Hale’s superb finish came just 16 minutes into his Saints debut and it was enough to earn his new side a crucial victory which ensures City’s winless run at home will go beyond the three-month mark.
Finn Harps' 1-0 win against Bohemians allows Pats to close the gap on their Dublin rivals in fourth to six points while City are now drawn closer to the relegation places, as they sit just four points clear of the Donegal side.
City created the first genuine chance of the match after three minutes as Gearoid Morrissey reclaimed possession and charged towards the oppositions goal but the midfielder’s powerful attempt from the edge of the area drifted narrowly wide of the far top left corner.
The game’s tempo suddenly dropped and neither side created a genuine goal-scoring opportunity of note until just shy of the half an hour mark when Casey headed wide from a corner.
City had suffered a blow moments before that attempt as Mark O'Sullivan was forced to withdraw with a head injury which handed Eoghan Stokes his debut earlier than anticipated.
But like O’Sullivan, the former Derry City striker was starved of possession and Pat’s comfortably held on to the half time break with the game goalless.
Stokes did have the first effort on goal at the beginning of the second half but his ambitions weren’t rewarded as he sailed the ball into the back of the Shed End from all of 30 yards.
The last meeting between these two clubs ended in controversial circumstances as referee Ben Connolly played two minutes over the allotted time which ultimately allowed Pats to snatch a last gasp equaliser.
Connolly was again the man in the middle here and he made a brave call to book Conor Clifford for simulation after the midfielder went down inside the Cork box.
The Saints grew into the game following that incident and they thought they had finally broken the deadlock with 18 minutes remaining.
Shortly after Dean Clarke’s thunderous shot was turned wide of the near post by Mark McNulty, the resulting corner ended up in the back of the net but it was ruled out for a foul on the City keeper.
Hale and Glen McAuley made their Saints debut as the game drew to a close and after McCarthy and Sheppard missed good openings for City, Pats grabbed what proved to be the winner.
And it was Hale who got it in the 90th minute as his curler from 20 plus yards nestled in the bottom right corner of the net.
Cork City: Mark McNulty; Colm Horgan, Conor McCarthy, Dan Casey, Ronan Hurley; Gearoid Morrissey, Conor McCormack; Joel Coustrain (Garry Buckley 62), Kevin O’Connor (Daire O’Connor 62), Karl Sheppard; Mark O’Sullivan (Eoghan Stokes 27).
St Patrick's Athletic: Brendan Clarke; Lee Desmond, David Webster, Ciaran Kelly (Ronan Hale 74), Kevin Toner; Jamie Lennon; Dean Clarke, Darragh Markey (Cian Coleman 91), Conor Clifford, Ian Bermingham; Gary Shaw (Glen McAuley 85).
Scorer: Hale 90
Referee: Ben Connolly (Dublin).