A Ronan Coughlan brace was the foundation stone of a routine St Patrick's Athletic’s win over Finn Harps at Richmond Park - a victory that takes Stephen O’Donnell’s side back to the top of SSE Airtrcity League Premier Division.
Robbie Benson was also on the scoresheet for the Inchicore-based team. Adam Foley netted for the visitors in the final quarter only for Alfie Lewis to lob a beautiful fourth from a wonderful pass from Chris Forrester.
Seven minutes before half-time, Coughlan was located in the Harps penalty area by a pass from Lewis and with his back to goal and Harps having the place well-manned, options appeared light.
Shifting his feet in a flash and working for the split in the curtains, the 24-year-old smashed a rocket in off the underside of the crossbar, with Mark Anthony McGinley in the Harps goal left stunned.
Benson doubled the advantage in the 62nd minute with an assured finish, coming onto a Coughlan pass, taking a steadying touch before sliding the ball home for 2-0.
It was three on 67, with Harps deflated, Coughlan stretched to steer home after McGinley had to scamper from his goal to win a challenge against substitute Darragh Burns, who turned in a cross having picked up the loose ball.
Foley got onto a Barry McNamee pass on 73 minutes to finish coolly from an acute angle before West Ham loanee Lewis made it 4-1 on 86. It was comprehensive in the end, although in the first half there was little between them bar Coughlan’s excellent goal.
Conor Barry made a Harps start and after six minutes almost made a dream start for Harps. His free-kick from the left side of the penalty area didn’t clear the wall but his strike on the rebound was true, hitting the side-netting and missing the post by inches.
The scattered home attendees scrambled for a penalty when Benson went down in the vicinity of Kosovar Sadiki, with Harps having a big call of their own later in the half when Babatunde Owolabi pounced on a Paddy Barrett mistake and going to ground under a challenge of Vitezslav Jaros, which looked a much clearer spot kick.
There was a notion, with Longford Town visiting Ballybofey on Friday, that Harps manager Ollie Horgan had more eyes for that than this.
His team, without the suspended Karl O’Sulivan and Ryan Rainey starting for the first time, went about their business well in the first 45 minutes. Jaros in the hosts’ goal had to be alert to get a hand behind an Ethan Boyle pop from the edge of the area when McNamee’s attempted pass wide came back off John Mountney.
On 37 minutes, Coughlan showed his class with a wonderful goal - it lit up the half, which ended 1-0 with Horgan booked for his complaints over the penalty that wasn’t as his players continued their protests after Rob Harvey tooted.
St Pat’s were 2-0 winners in the corresponding fixture at Finn Park in April, with Billy King and Mattie Smith showing the gulf between the sides. The same two players were on target on Friday in the 2-0 win at the Showgrounds.
They lined up with the same XI and looked a little jaded initially against Harps, who went 4-4-2 second half, moving top scorer Foley in from the right to partner the dangerous Owolabi. St Pat’s quality would tell in the second 45.
Benson’s goal put the hosts in firm control and when Coughlan added his second and his side’s third the contest was dead and buried, despite Foley finishing well to pull one back. Smith passed up on a great chance to restore the three-goal cushion, only to head over from close range.
The fourth did come, though, and it was the goal that edged St Pat’s back on top. And it was well worth the wait.
St Patrick’s Athletic: Vitezslav Jaros; John Mountney, Paddy Barrett, Lee Desmond, Ian Bermingham; Chris Forrester, Alfie Lewis; Mattie Smith (Jason McClelland 79), Robbie Benson (Ben McCormack 83), Billy King (Darragh Burns 61); Rónán Coughlan.
Finn Harps: Mark Anthony McGinley; Conor Barry (Tony McNamee 66), Shane McEleney, Kosovar Sadiki (Nathan Logue 78), Ethan Boyle; Will Seymore, Mark Coyle, Ryan Rainey, Adam Foley; Barry McNamee (Joel Bradley Walsh); Babatunde Owolabi (Sean Boyd 66).
Referee: Rob Harvey