St Patrick's Athletic moved up to fourth in the Premier Division table – at least for the night – following a straightforward 2-0 victory over Finn Harps at Richmond Park.
A first-half brace from on-loan striker Georgie Kelly earned Stephen O’Donnell’s side their third win of the season to bounce back from the disappointing midweek defeat at home to Derry City.
Harps' problems deepened, however, as they fell to their fifth straight defeat and remain just one point above Sligo Rovers and Cork City, who are in action tomorrow.
A good night for @stpatsfc and Georgie Kelly - he scored his first goal for the club tonight— Soccer Republic (@SoccRepublic) August 7, 2020
Subscribe to https://t.co/GCuxfKa9au to watch over 55 games #rtesoccer pic.twitter.com/gWzzgJMkz8
The away side, nursing back-to-back defeats against Shamrock Rovers and Shelbourne since the resumption, began at a furious tempo.
With four centre-halves along the backline – and a fifth in Shane McEleney in midfield – the gameplan was to go direct and work off set-pieces.
And it was one of those set-pieces that produced the first real chance as a half-cleared corner broke to Tony McNamee, but the winger curled his shot straight at Brendan Clarke.
Within minutes, the Athletic were in front. David Titov picked out Robbie Benson, who too easily outmuscled Ireland under-21 defender Sam Todd.
The midfielder slipped in his former Dundalk teammate Kelly and the on-loan striker finished clinically for the first goal of his loan spell.
Pats were firmly in control but found the wall of Harps defenders difficult to break down, though a smart spin and shot from Jason McClelland wasn't far over the bar.
It was McClelland’s flick-on that led to the second goal just before the half-hour, however, as Kosovar Sadiki failed to get enough on his header back to Mark McGinley.
Kelly accepted the gift without qualm and nonchalantly rounded the exposed McGinley and passed the ball into an empty net.
He also scored the second goal in a 2-0 win for @stpatsfc— Soccer Republic (@SoccRepublic) August 7, 2020
Subscribe to https://t.co/GCuxfKa9au to watch over 55 games #RTESoccer pic.twitter.com/LSjczMPn0s
Harps were denied a chance to halve the deficit on the stroke of half time in controversial circumstances following a mistake from Rory Feely.
Alexander Kogler looked to close in on goal but was adjudged by referee Sean Grant, rather harshly, to have handled the ball.
Visiting boss Ollie Horgan’s appeals to fourth official Paul McLaughlin that the ball had hit the Austrian somewhere altogether less comfortable fell on deaf ears.
An improved Harps emerged for the second half and it took a perfectly-timed tackle from captain Ian Bermingham to deny half-time substitute Raff Cretaro.
McGinley kept his side in the game with a brilliant save at the back post from Rory Feely, and he did brilliantly to deny Kelly his hat-trick when the Donegal man was once again one-on-one.
A raft of substitutions, including McLaughlin as referee in place of the injured Grant, saw the tempo drop as the Saints saw out the game on the front foot to climb to ten points.
St. Patrick's Athletic: Brendan Clarke; Rory Feely, Luke McNally, Ian Bermingham; David Titov, Jamie Lennon (Jamie Lennon 69), Chris Forrester, Shane Griffin; Robbie Benson (Lee Desmond 69), Jason McClelland (Darragh Markey 80), Georgie Kelly (Jordan Gibson 80).
Finn Harps: Mark McGinley; Dave Webster (Stephen Doherty 85), Stephen Folan, Kosovar SadiiSam Todd, Shane McEleney (Ruairi Harkin 69), Kosovar Sadiki; Mark Coyle (Adrian Delap 69), Tony McNamee, Ryan Connolly; Karl O’Sullivan (Mark Russell 80), Alexander Kogler (Raffaele Cretaro 46).
Referee: Sean Grant.