Frustrated Chris Forrester focused on the Hoops response


It’s presumptuous to think that the late goals that have cost St Patrick’s Athletic points against Shamrock Rovers this season are the most serious with Chris Forrester.

Aaron Greene’s 87th-minute equalizer deprived the Saints of a memorable victory at Tallaght on the season’s opening night and Daniel Mandroiu struck again later in the rematch at Inchicore to secure a victory 2-1.

But, before the final meeting of the title contenders tonight, it is the last duel at the end of July that he regrets the most. Even his own memory of the 3-1 loss tells its own story.

“It was 3-0 or 3-1,” Forrester said. “It left a bitter taste.”

Such was the balance of the game of the match at Tallaght, with Rovers running out of comfortable winners, that his drastic recollection is understandable. The 28-year-old was part of the last St Pat’s team to win the title in 2013 and, if they are to push the champions into the final round, taking points from them is essential.

Entering tonight’s final nine-game series, the Rovers hold a six-point buffer at the top, with one game in hand.

This advantage is attributable to the results between the top two, as they each accumulated the same number of points, 48, in games against the other eight opponents.

Tonight, faced with a limited capacity of 2,500 seats made up entirely of their own fans, Stephen O’Donnell’s team have the opportunity to slow the Rovers’ gallop to consecutive titles.

“If we get the three points, all the pressure is back on the Rovers,” Forrester said of their quest for a seventh straight home win.

“He won’t be the league’s decision maker, but it’s a huge title game. You can’t deny it.

“With the Rovers six points ahead, it would become very difficult if they won, but that’s the pressure you want to play under in every game.

“The Rovers are the only team we haven’t beaten this season. It’s a challenge for us to go and put it in our own head and I believe we can. “

Forrester returned from a stint in the UK in early 2019 in an attempt to rekindle the glory days of his first stint, but the first two seasons did not go as planned.

Harry Kenny had left as boss before the end of the first campaign and it understandably took time for his successor O’Donnell to settle into his first managerial role. There was also last year’s Covid-19 hiatus in the mix.

Pat’s has gone from midrange muddlers to title contenders this season, with Forrester at the forefront as the midfield’s leading scorer.

Neither he nor his manager want him to be cataloged as the creative spark who, as a playmaker at Peterborough United, made a provisional team from Ireland in 2016 but drifted off the main stage in a relative darkness.

Between that title and an upcoming FAI Cup semi-final, the draw of which takes place after tonight’s game, he has enough leeway to create a new chapter in his career.

“It’s just because I’m in good physical shape and have a good hunger,” he says of his rebirth.

“I worked really hard in the preseason on my own fitness, putting myself in the best possible frame. I mainly focused on my own life. It put me in a great position and I continued to play well after a good start.

“Personally, I haven’t contested trophies or scored goals in consecutive games for a few years. You just want to hang in there when you haven’t been in that situation for a while.

The rebuilding of O’Donnell involved recruiting some of his fellow title winners at Dundalk like Robbie Benson and John Mountney and merging them with younger graduates in the form of Ben McCormack and Darragh Burns. Only a select couple from Liam Buckley’s trophy-laden era, like Ian Bermingham and Forrester, survived the overhaul.

He would like to extend his original three-year contract which expires next month to continue the new dawn, but securing the silverware in sight is the immediate priority.

“I was only telling one of the guys that’s what you want as a footballer – people are talking and what you can potentially do in the league and the cup,” Forrester added.

“We will see at the end of the season if we can go around the locker room and tell ourselves that we have given everything. Once you can do that, no one will complain. “

Benson and Lee Desmond are back in contention for the Saints after injury layoffs. Rovers boss Stephen Bradley has doubts about Graham Burke, Joey O’Brien, Aaron Greene and Sean Hoare.

Friday meetings: SSE Airtricity Premier Division (all at 7:45 p.m.): St. Patrick’s Athletic vs. Shamrock Rovers, Richmond Park, 7:45 p.m. (Live on RTÉ2); Waterford v Drogheda United, RSC; Derry City v Longford Town, Ryan McBride Brandywell Stadium,; Dundalk vs. Sligo Rovers, Oriel Park; Bohemians v Finn Harps, Dalymount Park.

SSE Airtricity First Division: Athlone Town v Wexford FC, Athlone Town stadium; Cabinteely v Shelbourne, Stradbrook; United vs. Cork City Treaty, Markets Field; Galway United v UCD AFC, Eamonn Deacy Park, 7:45 p.m.


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