St Patrickís Athletic came within a hairís breadth of overturning a three goal deficit in their Setanta Cup first round tie with Cliftonville on Tuesday night, but goals from Dave Mulcahy and David McMillan were not enough to stop the Belfast side going through to the quarter finals.
Trailing by three goals from the first leg, St Patrickís Athletic had to take this game by the scruff of the neck if they were to have any hope of advancing to the Quarter finals and that is exactly what they did. From the earliest moments they surged forwards from all angles, Anto Muphy and Derek Doyle on the flanks causing particular problems for Cliftonville defence.
In the fourth minute a tame header from Danny North bounced into John Connollyís hands and two minutes later Murphy headed narrowly over at the back post. Three minutes after that and North was the man to head over the visitorís bar after he got on the end of an excellent Murphy cross from the right.
St Pats were firmly in control and the Belfast side attempted to gain a foothold by abandoning their five man midfield and changing to 4-4-2 after defender Barry Holland was forced off with an injury after just eleven minutes.
It made little difference and David McMillan might have given the home side the lead on 29 minutes when he flicked a delightful ball over his marker but drove wide from ten yards out. That miss only delayed the inevitable and, four minutes from half time, Pats crashed home the goal their first half performance deserved.
A long throw from Murphy on the right was skewed across his own goalmouth by Eamon Seydak. It looked to have cleared the ruck but Dave Mulcahy arrived to smack a powerful shot into the roof of the Cliftonville net from a tight angle. Pats might even have had a second before the break by Mulcahyís header from a cross shot by Danny North was ruled out by the linesmanís flag.
Within four minutes of the restart two Derek Doyle headers had threatened the visitorís goal as Patís sought the two goals they needed to level the tie. Cliftonville struggled to get out of their own half as Murphyís missile like throws and the darting runs of North and McMillan continually tested their defensive stamina.
With 25 minutes left to play Anto Murphy was withdrawn, replaced by young Jordan Keegan, and with that Pats lost their way somewhat. They suddenly seemed tired and too many long balls ceded too much possession to the opposition. All of a sudden time was ticking away fast and the two goals needed began to look to big of an ask.
Then, with ten minutes left on the clock, Stephen Bradley orchestrated a dramatic late lifeline. Collecting the ball in midfield he rode one challenge and refused to be rushed before putting Pender through on the right. His cross was met by North whose blocked shot fell to David McMillan, and the former UCD man tucked the ball home from six yards.
The Alamo was what followed as Pats swept forwards barely giving Cliftonville time to breath as a series of corners and free kicks threatened to undo what had seemed a sure thing just minutes earlier.
McMillan drove wastefully over at the back post while Kenna sent a bullet header wide from a Bradley corner. Shortall looped another header over the bar and then Kenna found himself one on one with Connolly only to run the ball wide and see his shot deflected wide.
In the end the whistle sonded without Pete Mahonís side cracking the Ulstermenís resolve but there wasnít a Pats supporter in the ground who didnít rise and applaud a fine performance when the end did finally come.