ST PATRICK’S ATHLETIC can add to the pain of a miserable few weeks for Shamrock Rovers when the sides meet in Tuesday evening’s Dublin derby in Inchicore.
Unbeaten in their last seven games in all competitions, the Saints continue to ride high in the Airtricity League Premier Division and a win tonight would keep the pressure on leaders Sligo Rovers, closing the gap to six points with five games to play.
Out in Tallaght though, the atmosphere is as grim as the Dublin weather. Brian Laws didn’t bring any change in fortune with him on arrival as the Hoops’ director of football, and it was the same old story as Rovers rolled over in Saturday’s EA Sports Cup final to Drogheda.
Defeat tonight would perhaps be the final devastating blow in a dismal season which has seen the champions meekly surrender the title. Pat’s can move eight points clear of Rovers with a win, making the prospect of European football next season a distant prospect indeed.
If there is one minor comfort ahead of their trip to Richmond Park it is that Chris Forrester, their tormentor-in-chief in April’s 5-1 league defeat, is suspended for the Saints after picking up four yellow cards.
Manager Liam Buckley is also without long-term absentee Mark Rossiter, but also has doubts over John Russell (ankle), Hernany Macedo (knee) and Stephen O’Flynn (ill).
“Nobody should be in any doubt that this will be another tough game for us and that there will be a lot of tough games between now and the end of the season,” Buckley told StPatsFC.com.
“Each club is playing for something, whether it be the fight against relegation or for a European place, so there’s a lot to be won and lost over the next few weeks.”
For Rovers, Graham Gartland and Conor Winn are out with back injuries, while Conor Powell, Stephen Rice and Pat Sullivan are all suspended for the game.
Ronan Finn and Ciaran Kilduff face late fitness tests following knocks in Saturday’s final.
Brian Laws said: “Losing in Saturday’s cup final was very disappointing, especially to lose in the manner which we did. We gifted them two goals, and after that we always had a uphill battle. But we need to get over that quickly as we have a big game to play on Tuesday.
“We still have a lot left to play for, as not only do we need to qualify for Europe ourselves, but we can also have a big say in what goes on around in terms of all the European spots. This game is huge for both ourselves and St Patrick’s and we need to make sure we are in the right frame of mind for it.”