Forrester fires Pat’s to third straight win
Shelbourne slump to another defeat as wingers do the damage at Richmond Park
Hat-trick hero Chris Forrester celebrates his first at Richmond Park. Photograph: Ryan Byrne/Inpho
Killian Brennan (left) and Kenny Browne of St Patrick's Athletic with Phillip Hughes of Shelbourne at Richmond Park. Photograph: Ryan Byrne/Inpho
St Patrick's Athletic 4 Shelbourne 0: They will need Sligo Rovers to stop winning, of course, if there is going to be an actual title race worth speaking of but with this, their third straight victory, St Patrick's Athletic at least looked like a team capable of mounting a challenge the moment an opportunity arises.
After narrow wins away to Bray and UCD this one ended up being fairly emphatic. Three goals from Chris Forrester and one from Conan Byrne earned them the points that take them clear into third place. Shelbourne, meanwhile, slip to last, behind UCD on goal difference, after a fifth straight defeat and they must have been a little relieved not to have lost by more.
They found themselves on the backfoot from early on, but they rarely actually looked swamped before Forrester opened the scoring in the 44th minute. In fact, they probably had the better of the first half's chances up until that point.
Certainly Dave Ryan made its best save when preventing Dean Kelly's close range header from hitting the back of the net after Paul Crowley had flicked on a Jack Memery cross. He took second place, too, with the touch he got to a Kelly shot hit sweetly at full stride as the visitors made one of their better breaks into the opposition's half; on that occasion after Conor Kenna's mistake had gifted them possession.
The locals, though, dominated in terms of possession and pressure, with Greg Bolger anchoring the midfield to good effect, John Russell moving the ball around well and the widemen, Byrne and Forrester, always threatening to unhinge a shaky looking Shelbourne defence.
Still, the difference between the two sides at the break was that when Brian Shorthall got himself into the sort of trouble Kenna had a little earlier, the hosts made him pay. The central defender's mistake was not clearing when he had the chance and within seconds the ball had run to Forrester, whose shot wasn't really good enough to have beaten Ger Hanley, except that the goalkeeper did rather poorly with his attempt to keep it out.
Whether Shelbourne could have rustled up a comeback had it stayed that way for a while in the second half is doubtful, but within 10 minutes the game was completely beyond them anyway. Byrne doubled the home side's advantage four minutes into the second period when Forrester headed a Killian Brennan cross to his feet and the midfielder spun on the spot before pushing the ball home from a yard or so.
Forrester's second, some five minutes later, was rather more spectacular, with the young Dubliner curling the ball in from a tight enough angle and a fair way out. From that point on there was clearly not going to be a way back but Alan Mathews would presumably have hoped to see the sort of resilience and spirit Shels are going to need over the coming weeks if a poor start is not to evolve into a nightmarish campaign.
Instead, his side came close to folding. The only additional goal they conceded was a soft one with another Forrester shot coming through a packed area to beat Hanley when it appeared he should, once again, have done better. Two more were disallowed, however, and their goalkeeper actually went some way to making amends for his mistakes with a handful of cracking saves - three of them in remarkably quick succession with Anto Flood and Forrester between them looking certain to find the back of the net.
St Patrick's Athletic: Ryan; O'Brien, Kenna, Browne (Carroll, 76 mins), Bermingham; Bolger (Maher, 84 mins); Byrne, Russell, Brennan, Forrester; Flood (Fagan, 72 mins).
Shelbourne: Hanley; Flynn, Shortall, Gartland, Memery; Brennan (Prizeman, 64 mins), Crowley, Hurley, Kelly; Bayly; Hughes.
Referee: D Tomney (Dublin).