by Denis Hurley for EchoLive.ie
A 90th-minute equaliser from St Patrick’s Athletic sub Dean Clarke denied Cork City victory at Turner’s Cross on Friday night.
Having led since Graham Cummins’ penalty on 35 minutes, City looked to be comfortable but, at the death, a defensive mix-up allowed Clarke to nip in and secure a draw for ten-man Pat’s.
City had three changes from last week’s loss to Shamrock Rovers, with Karl Sheppard out injured and James Tilley given an extended suspension. They were replaced by U19 player Cian Murphy and Garry Comerford as Caulfield went with a 4-2-2-2 formation, while captain Alan Bennett came in for Seán McLoughlin in defence.
While Pat’s had the first real chance, Rhys McCabe firing wide after Mark McNulty saved from Kevin Toner, City had the better of the play in the opening half. They almost had the lead on 17 minutes as Dan Casey’s header from Comerford’s long throw brushed the post and Cummins couldn’t net the follow-up, while Garry Buckley met a Kevin O’Connor free-kick at the back post but couldn’t steer it in.
Unfortunately for Murphy, his home league debut didn’t last too long as he was forced off injured, replaced by another youngster, Darragh Crowley. While Pat’s did have a half-chance as Lee Desmond sent a glancing header wide from McCabe’s delivery, City remained on top and they had the lead ten minutes from half-time.
As they built an attack outside the area, one of the assistant referees flagged to signal the attention of referee Seán Grant and, after consultation, he awarded a penalty, with David Webster deemed to have fouled Graham Cummins off the ball. Webster was red-carded and Cummins slotted the spot-kick past Brendan Clarke for his second goal of the season.
There was nearly a second in injury time. When space opened up for Comerford 30 yards out, he unleashed a left-footed piledriver that Clarke had to touch on to the crossbar and, but for a fine saving challenge from Toner, Crowley would have marked his league debut with a goal.
With the extra man, City had the bulk of the possession in the second half and they played good football, arguably their best of the season so far. Cummins benefited from Crowley’s presence alongside him up front and twice he went close to doubling his tally, unlucky with headers from crosses by Crowley and Gearóid Morrissey respectively.
Bar a Gary Shaw header straight at McNulty, Pat’s didn’t threaten in the period after the restart and they found themselves stretched by City more often than not. On 72, Comerford again had a go from distance, this time his volley straight at Clarke after the goalkeeper punched straight to him, while Morrissey fired over from a narrow angle when Crowley set him up in the area.
As the end neared, Pat’s tried to press more, with Toner heading over from McCabe’s cross while sub James Doona blasted high and wide. At the other end, Crowley tested Clarke as City kept going in search of a second. However, when the goal did arrive, it was for Pat’s as Dean Clarke earned them a point.
Referee: Sean Grant (Wexford).