League Preview: St. Patrick’s Athletic -v- Shamrock Rovers
SAINT PATRICK’S ATHLETIC
A win for St. Patrick’s Athletic in their final home game of the season in front of a sell out crowd would move the Saints level with Shamrock Rovers at the top of the table with one game remaining – although the Hoops have two matches still to come after Friday.
However, a defeat for the Athletic in front of the live RTÉ TV cameras will hand the Hoops their fourth league title in a row.
Jon Daly’s team come into the game on the back of four wins in a row without conceding a goal – with their 1-0 home victory on Monday against Sligo Rovers cementing a spot in the Europa Conference League qualifiers next season.
"Hopefully we can give the crowd something to cheer about,” said Daly speaking to at his pre-match press conference. "We've achieved our first objective of qualifying to Europe, but that's done.
“ I think it's inevitable Rovers will win the league, but it's now if we can make them have to go down to Cork and win. The games against Rovers are always competitive games.
“There's gonna be a good crowd as it's a sell-out again. It's fantastic for the league to have another full house. Hopefully we can give them something to cheer about and get behind."
It was Kian Leavy who got the winner on Monday and he also spoke to the media this week.
"When I first came in, the objective was to get into Europe,” said Leavy. “Obviously it is a bonus that we still have an outside chance of the title.
“We have a cup final ahead of us but to have Europe ticked off with two games to go is very nice. We want to have a go on Friday, we want to win our last two (league) games.
“The whole club is buzzing at the moment, so we're hoping to finish off the season like that."
Rovers know if they can win on Friday night in Inchicore, they will be champions for the fourth time in a row.
Their recent home form has put them in that superb position as they have earned eight league home wins in a row for the first time in the Tallaght era.
However, the Hoops have struggled away from home. Their 3-0 win in Sligo back in early June is Rovers’ last away victory in the league, cup or in Europe. In the league since that victory they have drawn five and lost once (2-0 in Dundalk).
A draw would effectively, but not mathematically, win them title. It would leave Rovers three points clear with Pat’s having just one league game left (away to Derry).
The Hoops have a superior goal difference of 14 over the Athletic and will have two games left after Friday’s clash in Dublin 8 (away to Cork City on Bank Holiday Monday and a home game against Sligo Rovers).
“We know a point does it for us considering our goal difference, but we’ll go there to win the game,” said Stephen Bradley speaking to shamrockrovers.ie. “That doesn’t change whether we’re home or away.
“We know Pat's have some good players and that hasn’t changed all year and Jon Daly has done a really good job since he’s gone in.
"It’s a Dublin Derby and we’re ready to go and we’ve built up to this point since the first day in pre-season. There will be nothing on our mind other than winning and getting the three points.”
Rovers’ 5-0 victory over Drogheda United last Sunday night was their biggest winning margin since just prior to COVID-19 – a 6-0 win over Cork City in February 2020.
“If you could be critical of us the last few years, one area we could really improve upon is when we have teams on the ropes. We need to go for them and that was a really pleasing aspect of the Drogheda game.
“We had them on the ropes and we kept our foot down, we kept going for them. Whether it was eleven men or ten, it was really positive and that’s something we need to bring into our game going forward. It was really pleasing to see that.”
Having come into the game with a three week break, due to the international fixtures, the FAI Cup semi-finals and a weather delay, the Hoops looked super sharp against the Boynesiders.
“We were delighted,” said Bradley about his team’s performance. “You’re never quite sure how that gap will affect the players’ mentality, physically, the flow in how we play, so you’re never quite sure how it affects all of that.
"You don’t want a three week break, but we had to deal with it. I felt that the players, and you could see this in training last week, were in a good place.”
Referee: Neil Doyle
Rovers have just the one loss in their last 15 league games.
The Saints have just the one win from the last seven matches played between the sides. That was a 1-0 home win in April last year earned through a Chris Forrester goal. Rovers have won five with the other match ending in a 2-2 back in March.
St. Patrick’s Athletic
Injured: Tom Grivosti, Axel Sjoberg, Harry Brockbank
Injured: Jack Byrne, Trevor Clarke
Bradley on his Hoops future and relationship with John Giles: ‘He watches all of our games and gives feedback. We were winning games and he had a go at me, he said ‘youse weren’t good’ and I thought ‘f*cking hell John’. I watched it back and he was right. https://t.co/oUkuXL5z2Wpic.twitter.com/dp0Y8OssC3— Extratime.com (@ExtratimeNews) October 23, 2023