** St Pat’s celebrate Chris Forrester’s stunning strike. Picture: Darragh Connolly
League of Ireland Premier Division
St Patrick’s Athletic 3 Longford Town 0
Stephen O’Donnell praised his team’s resilience as St Patrick’s Athletic ground out a 3-0 win over bottom-placed Longford Town to maintain their position at the top of the Premier Division.
On-loan Liverpool keeper Vitezslac Jaros kept a fifth clean sheet from eight games as the Saints cruised to victory over a compact and well-drilled Longford side.
Chris Forrester netted twice in the second half, the first a stunning strike from 25 yards, as the Athletic remain top of the pile ahead of champions Shamrock Rovers on goal difference.
The home side failed to fire in a dour first half but scored twice inside the opening seven minutes of the second half, before Forrester put the icing on the cake in injury time.
With fixtures coming thick and fast, O’Donnell wasm’t too disappointed with the Athletic’s first-half display but was glad of their clinical finishing after the break.
“We could be better but you’re not going to play well every game,” the Galway native told the Dublin Gazette.
“The key is that when you are a bit below, you go and win the game and don’t concede any silly goals which we didn’t.
“We didn’t have a deficit to make up and getting the early goal gave us a nice little cushion and Chris’ goal speaks for itself.
“Longford’s attitude and energy was very good and you can’t take any team for granted. They should have drawn the game at Shamrock Rovers two weeks ago.
“If you offered me 3-0 I would have snapped your hand off,” the former Dundalk and Shamrock Rovers midfielder concluded.
It was hard work in the first half for a Saints side who have found their scoring touch in recent weeks following a couple of seasons in the negative clumn.
Darragh Burna has freedom on the right as the Athletic employed a new 3-4-3 system, but he could only curl an early shot over the bar.
The Nothern Ireland under-19 international scored the winner in a recent win over Waterford in Inchicore but he was well-shackled by Town left-back Paddy Kirk.
O’Donnell introduced top scorer Ronan Coughlan and John Mountney for the second half and he didn’t have to wait more than a minute for the breakthrough.
Burns’ cross was only half-cleared by Aaron O’Driscoll, the on-loan Mansfield Town defender, and Coughlan forced the ball home from close range.
Moments later, it was 2-0 as Coughlan fed Forrester on the edge of the box and he sent a spectacular strike into the top corner.
Town keeper Michael Kelly was helpless for both goals, and he could do nothing about Forrester’s second in injury time as the playmaker danced through two defenders before slotting the ball home.
“We made a really bad msitake early in the second half and gifted them a goal,” said Longford boss Daire Doyle, a Tallaght native.
“In the first half, I felt we were on top. I felt we were the better side and that if we continued to do the things we did really well in the first half, we’d cause them problems again.
“To gift them two of the three goals there is really disappointing. It’s something that we need to deal with, and I will do.
“We were really, really comeptitive against St Pat’s and the 3-0 scoreline obviously flatters them, and our keeper hasn’t had to do anything else in the game bar one or two little crosses.
“That’s disappointing but it shows we can compete every week and we’ve done it and we need to cut out those mistakes. If we do that we give ourselves a chance of getting results.”