THERE were no champagne corks popping in Drogheda last night but surely now it's only a matter of time.
For this clash between the Premier Division's top two resulted in a comprehensive win for the hosts which would suggest that the eight-point lead they now hold over the Saints accurately reflects the gap that exists between the teams.
Some clashes between the top sides in the league this term have failed to sparkle but this game delivered with chances aplenty.
St Pat's started with an attacking 3-4-3 line-up that included the welcome return of Joseph Ndo in midfield.
Temporarily, the hosts looked somewhat flustered and within five minutes they should have fallen behind to a familiar face when Glen Fitzpatrick, who joined the Saints from Drogheda ten days ago, hesitated when finding himself with just Dan Connor to beat from close range before his subsequent effort was brilliantly kept out by the Boynesiders' keeper.
Gradually, though, Drogheda came to grips with their visitors and began to dominate with roving right full Brian Shelley finding the space on three separate occasions to test Barry Ryan.
Perhaps Shelley's freedom was one of the reasons that Pat's boss quickly reshuffled to a 4-4-2 but it did not stem the flow of attacks from the Boynesiders.
They took the lead just before the half hour although the goal had a degree of fortune about it despite a flawless build-up.
Sami Ristila's crossfield pass found Richie Baker who teed it up for Shane Robinson with the midfielder's daisy-cutter taking a generous deflection off Dave Rogers to divert past Ryan.
There was little the Pat's keeper could do about that but twice more before the break he was in the right position to stop Drogheda from extending their advantage.
Zayed found himself one-on-one with the Clareman but when he eventually pulled the trigger Ryan was equal to the task.
Pat's started the second half with three up front and had patches in the ascendancy.
But after the 71st minute introduction of another ex-Drog, Keith Fahey, they were sucker-punched.
Doolin had just introduced his own replacement in the shape of Tony Grant and his impact was instant.
Zayed was denied by a last-ditch challenge from Maguire but was in the right place at the back post to head past Ryan when Grant collected the loose ball and found the perfect delivery.
Maguire cleared off the line from Richie Baker afterwards and Rogers would do the same to keep out Grant while at the other end the Saints were reduced to hopeful long shots. Their title chances now look just as forlorn.
© Irish Independent