Portlaoise AFC 4 St James Gate 0
Leinster Senior League Division 1B
Portlaoise AFC produced a truly incredible performance to thump league leaders St James Gate 4-0 in Rossleighan Park tonight.
Ger Dunne’s side came into the game five points behind their Dublin opponents but ended it just two back with five games remaining.
Portlaoise went close early on when Colm Poole found Jody Dillon unmarked inside the St James Gate box but he flashed his header just wide.
They then had another brilliant chance to take the lead after 16 minutes when they were awarded a penalty. Paul Cahillane’s corner created panic in the area and the referee pointed to the spot after what looked like a high foot from a St James Gate defender.
Jason Murphy stepped up from 12 yards but he uncharacteristically blazed his effort wide.
The away side seemed to grow in confidence following that miss and they tested Portlaoise keeper Mateusz Cwienk twice from long range.
St James Gate then felt they should have been awarded a penalty when Craig Murphy was fouled on the edge of the box but the referee awarded a free instead which John O’Connor took but Cwienk saved with ease.
It looked like we would be deadlocked at half time, however, just a minute before it, Portlaoise took the lead.
Jason Murphy showed great tenacity to keep a long ball in play and he played the ball to Oisin Fitzpatrick who’s first time cross was headed into the top corner by Colm Poole.
St James Gate pushed men forward in search of the equaliser on the resumption of play and Portlaoise went close twice on the counter attack through Paul Cahillane and Aaron Rafter.
Nevertheless, Portlaoise doubled their advantage after 64 minutes. Jody Dillon dribbled past several defenders before flicking the ball into the path of Rafter who slid it beneath the advancing goalkeeper.
The home team wrapped up the three points with fifteen minutes to go. They were awarded a free kick 35 yards from goal and Paul Cahillane beautifully bent it into the corner of the net to spark wild celebrations.
And Ger Dunne’s men rubbed salt into the St James Gate wounds by scoring their fourth late on courtesy of Jason Murphy who atoned for his earlier miss.
Next up for Portlaoise is a home tie with bottom club Celbridge Town where they will hope to keep their title ambitions alive.
PORTLAOISE AFC: Mateusz Cwienk; Eoghan White, Mark Brennan, James Mullany, Oisin Fitzpatrick, Colm Poole, Emmanuel Okpara, Paul Cahillane, Jody Dillon, Jason Murphy, Aaron Rafter. Subs: Derek Beale for Dillon (75mins), Robbie Ging for Rafter (78mins), Shane Brophy for Murphy (82mins), Jayson Bergin for Fitzpatrick (85mins), Shane Collins for Cahillane (85mins)