St Pat's moved two points clear of Dundalk with a hard-fought and deserved win at the Brandywell, which sees their unbeaten league run extend to eight games.
St Patrick’s Athletic remained on course for a first league title in 14 years thanks to a hard-fought 1-0 win over an out-of-form Derry City. Killian Brennan returned to haunt his old club with a spectacular free-kick in the opening stages as the Saints dominated the opening period.
Derry improved after the break but could do little to break down a resolute Pats side, whose only negative was a serious injury to substitute Stephen Maher. The result sees St Pat’s assume a two-point lead over Stephen Kenny’s Dundalk at the summit of the table, with both sides having seven games remaining.
Derry’s home form has seen them amass only one point from their last five league games on Foyleside, and they could not have got off to a more ominous start.
Declan Devine will have been well aware of Brennan’s expertise from set pieces given the midfielder’s time with the Candystripes, and must have been fuming with Shane McEleney’s reckless foul on Shane McFaul after only two minutes.
From 20 yards, Brennan curled a delightful left-footed free-kick over the wall and in off the inside of Gerard Doherty’s right-hand post with the goalkeeper well beaten.
The Saints were playing the sort of free-flowing football which, apart from a Rory Patterson snap shot wide, completely mesmerised their opponents.
Liam Buckley’s men’s insistence on short, sharp passes saw Brennan and Ger O’Brien combine well on 22 minutes, with Christy Fagan feeling he was fouled when trying to apply the finish to the latter’s cross.
That Derry were only one behind at half-time was as much testament to St Pat’s profligacy as it was to City resolve.
The visitors were unbeaten in seven league games, and will have been confident of building on that due to their sheer dominance in possession.
Yet the hosts started the second period much the more threatening side, but could still do little to test Brendan Clarke in the Saints goal.
A quick throw released substitute Patrick Kavanagh to run at the away side’s back four and, whilst he did well to work into position, his shot was easily held by Clarke.
With City in the ascendancy, and buoyed by a robust Ryan McBride challenge, Barry Molloy let fly from 30 yards but his shot flew over the bar.
McFaul had only been on the pitch five minutes when he clashed with Kavanagh, a challenge for which he was booked but saw him leave the field on a stretcher.
The delay led to 10 minutes of injury time, but this game was destined to peter out to a 1-0 win for St Pat’s, delighting the sizeable away contingent and condemning City to a third successive league defeat.