St Patrick's lift spirits by sealing second position

 

LEAGUE OF IRELAND PREMIER DIVISION St Patrick's Ath 2 Derry City 1:PRIOR TO this game the mood had been understandably subdued around Richmond Park.

Recent form and, in particular, a couple of recent performances had already cast a shadow over the prospect of finally nailing down this second place finish, but news of the betting controversy had further dampened spirits amongst supporters who already had some cause to feel a little disillusioned.

After it, though, the home fans, lifted by a well-deserved win, gave their players a spirited send off with goals from Keith Fahey and Mark Quigley proving enough to guarantee the Dubliners second spot in this year's title race and revive hopes of better to come next time around.

Certainly, this was a dramatic improvement on the performance turned in against Cork City last week when John McDonnell's men looked lifeless and disinterested.

Fahey was bright and lively, Quigley had worked hard over the course of the game and deserved his goal even if it was from the penalty spot while the defence contained Derry's strikers well, at least until the dying seconds when Mark Farren popped up to turn a loose ball home.

While things were finally looking a little brighter on the pitch for the hosts, club chief executive Richard Sadlier declined to comment on where the investigation into the issue of players betting on games stands at this point, but it seems that it will continue at least for the best part of this week. A firm decision has also to be taken, meanwhile, on how to proceed in the Gary Dempsey case.

McDonnell, meanwhile, expressed some sympathy for the former Dunfermline player who finds his future at the club on the line after the events of recent days.

"I think it's an executive decision," he said, "the board and the FAI have to decide how they're going handle it, but obviously Gary has to get due process.

"He's a good lad, though, and I don't think he's ever been involved in any of this stuff before. He's been very good for us this year, but we'll have to see what happens from here."

The midfielder didn't seem to be in the ground last night and in his continuing absence McDonnell made just one change to the side that beat UCD on Friday night with Damien Lynch returning for Jamie Harris.

Lynch settled in just in front of the back four making the home side look reasonably comfortable at the back through most of the opening half, but rather short handed up front.

Quigley did have one or two moments, but the home side generally looked most threatening from Fahey set-pieces, while the midfielder produced the opening goal himself after being allowed to take the ball from a short Alan Kirby corner before drifting into the area and firing low to the bottom right corner.

By half-time it might well have been two with Quigley laying off a low cross by Kirby for Ryan Guy who would have scored had he placed the ball either side of Ger Doherty. Instead, he put it above him and the goalkeeper reacted swiftly to turn the ball on to the crossbar.

With the conditions easing a little, Derry found a bit more fluency in the second half as Niall McGinn came on for Billy Dennehy and they pushed for an equaliser, but they still had to survive an early scare when a Fahey free took a deflection and looked to be rolling in until Doherty and Eddie McCallion arrived together to stop the ball on the line.

After that, the visitors exerted the bulk of the pressure, but clear-cut chances were rare and their best came 12 minutes from time when Kevin Deery saw his shot fly just wide of the right-hand post. A few minutes later McDonnell's men made sure of what was just their third win in eight games when Mark McChrystal handled and Quigley stepped up to coolly send Doherty the wrong way from the spot.

The goal sends the striker level with Dave Mooney at the top of the league's goal-scoring chart, although Mark Farren kept alive his hopes of pinching that title this Friday with an opportunist injury-time tap-in after a close range Clive Delaney header had been parried by Barry Ryan.

There was no time, though, to steal the point and McDonell expressed some relief at having secured the win. "It's good to make sure of second place and it's always good to win your last game at home."

ST PATRICK'S ATHLETIC:Ryan; O'Cearuill, Gavin, Partridge, Rogers; Lynch; Guy, Kirby, Fahey, O'Brien (Bialek, 85 mins); Quigley.

DERRY CITY:Doherty; McCallion, Delaney, Hutton (Morrow, 75 mins), McChrystal; Deery, Molloy (Farren, 64 mins), Higgins, Dennehy (McGinn, half-time); Stewart, McHugh.

REFEREE:R Winters (Dublin).