SAINT PATRICK’S ATHLETIC
Second placed St. Pat’s begin their final series of League of Ireland matches of the season by welcoming league leaders Shamrock Rovers to Richmond Park on Friday in front of the live RTÉ cameras (kick-off 7.45pm).
If the home side are to finish the season by overhauling the Hoops and claiming the title for themselves for the first time in eight years, then the view from ousdie the club is that really need to earn all three points in this Dublin derby but that is not quite how Stephen O'Donnell sees it.
This is their last chance to take points off the Hoops this season and a win would leave them three points off top spot having played a game more than Rovers.
"We have never really spoken about it (the title race) in those terms,” said St. Pat’s Head Coach Stephen O’Donnell talking about the importance of this game in their title challenge at his pre-match press conference.
“We are going into the last quarter now and we have nine games left between the end of the season between the league and a cup semi-final to look forward to and that's basically what we are looking at, it is the next game on our calendar.
“We are not going in saying it's a must win game. There has been a lot of unpredictable results this season in the league, so it is the ninth last game and it happens to be Shamrock Rovers at home. Obviously, it is a tough game, but a really good game for our lads to look forward to."
The Athletic havve the best home record in the league this season with just two defeats with their recent record reading six wins in a row in the league – eight in all competitions if you add in their two FAI Cup wins in Richmond Park.
They will have a full house of home fans to cheer them on as the game is sold out with a 2,500 capacity (and no official away ticket allocation).
Speaking ahead of the game Chris Forrester said “it will be intimidating for Rovers, especially for the wing-backs with the fans being right on top of the pitch and behind both goals, they can get on the goalkeepers a bit.
"Any player in the league will tell you Inchicore is a great atmosphere when the fans are packed out and the four corners will be full on Friday.
“We want to be challenging for the league which we are now and when you see the fixtures with Rovers, you always know it's going to be a cracker of a game whether it's in Tallaght or Inchicore."
St. Pat’s won last weekend 3-0 in the cup against Wexford. Sam Bone was sent off early in the game but will serve his suspension in the cup semi-final and so will be available to play against his former club.
Lee Desmond’s recovery from concussion is progressing and he is pushing to be available for selection along with Robbie Benson who is also close to a return.
Rovers could take a big step in retaining their title if they can win in Richmond Park on Friday night. Victory would move Rovers nine points clear of second placed St. Patrick’s Athletic with just nine games remaining.
The Hoops have a game in hand over the Saints too – that is a home fixture against Bohemians due to take place in early October.
Despite losing four competitive games in a row last month, in the league Rovers' recent record is excellent – winning seven of their last eight Premier Division games and they come into the match in Dublin 8 with back-to-back clean sheets in the wins over Waterford (2-0) and most recently against Sligo Rovers last Saturday (1-0).
"It was a good win,” said Stephen Bradley reflecting on last weekend’s victory at the Showgrounds. “I thought we played well, and I felt we deserved it. It was a tough game; it always is when you go to Sligo.
"It was a good performance because it had a bit of everything from us. We played well in spells, created chances and then we had to defend really well at the end, so it had a bit of everything, which was pleasing. And of course, it's always nice to come away with a clean sheet."
“I think the clean sheet comes as a team. It's not just a back three, it comes from a team. I've said it before, when we concede goals, nine times out of ten it's a team issue. And when we keep clean sheets, it's the same.
"So, I felt all over the pitch we defended well, which is good carrying on from Waterford.
“We'll go there with confidence and we're very much looking forward to it. We know it'll be a difficult game because they're a good side. They're second in the league for a reason."
Referee: Rob Hennessy
The Saints are seeking their first win over Rovers this season. The teams drew 1-1 on the opening night of the league campaign 1-1 in Tallaght and the most recent result was a 3-1 home win for Rovers. In between Danny Mandriou scored the late winner in a 2-1 victory for the Hoops in Inchicore at the end of July.
Rory Gaffney, Graham Burke and Danny Mandroiu all have nine league goals for the Hoops. Top scorers for the Saints in the league are Chris Forrester and Matty Smith who both have eight goals.
St. Patrick’s Athletic
Injured: John Mountney.
Doubtful: Lee Desmond, Robbie Benson.
Doubtful: Ronan Finn, Sean Hoare, Sean Kavanagh, Aaron Greene.
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