Dundalk FC manager Stephen Kenny. (Pic: Ciarán Culligan)
SSE Airtricity League Premier Division
St. Patrick's Athletic 0-0 Dundalk FC
Dundalk FC were held scoreless for the third time in five SSE Airtricity League matches at Richmond Park tonight as St. Patrick's Athletic earned a deserved share of the spoils.
Though the game had more flashpoints than The Lilywhites' two previous stalemates, against Bray Wanderers and Shamrock Rovers, Stephen Kenny will know his side fell well below their best, particularly during a pretty dour second half.
Granted the majority of the chances fell the way of the visitors, who held the initiative for the majority of the contest, a goal never looked like coming with Dundalk's best chances falling the way of Patrick Hoban and Ronan Murray either side of the interval.
Having scored three times in his previous two matches, Hoban looked odds-on to open the scoring after controlling Seán Gannon's lofted through ball. But St. Pat's 'keeper Barry Murphy pulled off a tremendous stop to deny the striker's powerful low drive.
That chance came at the start of Dundalk's best spell of the match, just before half-time, where both Daniel Cleary and Murray had efforts cleared off the line by the scrambling home defence.
Scoreless at the break, Murray again went close midway through the third quarter when his dipping free-kick rattled the crossbar with Murphy stranded.
But, for the remainder of the contest, Dundalk's play lacked cohesion and despite a few goalmouth scrambles, St. Pat's held out somewhat comfortably.
Indeed, Liam Buckley's men could well have taken the points themselves when Ryan Brennan was afforded the freedom of the six-yard box with which to test Gary Rogers. However, he could only direct his header on to the top of the net.
Disappointment was etched all over the faces of the visitors at full-time and understandably so. After Cork City's victory over Shamrock Rovers at Turner's Cross, the gap is out to three points at the league's summit.
St. Patrick's Athletic: Barry Murphy; Simon Madden, Lee Desmond, Kevin Toner, Ian Bermingham; Ryan Brennan, Owen Garvan; Conan Byrne (Ian Turner 84), Darragh Markey (Graham Kelly 90), Dean Clarke; Christy Fagan (Jake Keegan 90)
Subs not used: Brian Maher (gk), Michael Barker, James Doona, Michael Leahy
Dundalk FC: Gary Rogers; Seán Gannon, Daniel Cleary, Seán Hoare, Dane Massey; Chris Shields (Karolis Chvedukas 82), Robbie Benson; Dylan Connolly, Ronan Murray (Krisztián Adorján 71), Michael Duffy; Patrick Hoban (Marco Tagbajumi 74)
Subs not used: Gabriel Sava (gk), Stephen Folan, Dean Jarvis, Jamie McGrath
Referee: Rob Rogers (Dublin)