LIAM BUCKLEY predicts that his St Patrick's Athletic side will soon click into gear despite a slow start to the new season at a boggy Richmond Park last night.
The Saints were held to a 0-0 draw at home to Glentoran in the first leg of their Setanta Sports Cup first round tie, a new-look Pat's side featuring six debutants over 90 minutes struggling to break down the Belfast outfit who will now fancy their chances of advancing to the next round in the second leg at the Oval next Monday.
Pat's keeper Brendan Clarke had a very quiet night as the Glens rarely bothered the Saints No 1, while Elliot Morris organised his defence well to come away with a clean sheet.
"I have no doubt we will play better. Bearing in mind the conditions, I am delighted with the effort they put in," said Buckley.
"We had enough chances to win it, in the first half I think the stats were seven chances for us and four on target. The way we look at this is, we are back in training just under a month and last night was the first time we were on grass from a training point of view.
"That's not an excuse as I'd expect us to be a bit better than that next week – it was our first real training session as such.
"It's a tie where we want to get through, and the only way they were going to score was from a mistake by us as I didn't see them breaking us down and scoring," added the Saints boss. "I have to take out the positives and that's a clean sheet. We came through our first competitive game of the season and we're still in the tie, we will give it a right crack next week."
Apart from the 2010 season, when they went all the way to the final, St Pat's have not enjoyed the Setanta Sports Cup all that much, and in the last two seasons they didn't even make it past the first round of the competition, losing out to a Belfast side on both occasions.
And Liam Buckley's side will need to be sharper in the return leg in Belfast next Monday night as they had lots of possession and chances but never caused keeper Elliot Morris too much trouble.
The Pat's new boys were at the heart of their decent form early on as Shane McFaul – back at Pat's for a second spell – went close, while man of the match Killian Brennan also found time to shoot.
As the game wore on, Christopher Forrester (right), enjoying his new-found status as an Ireland U21 cap, came into the game more and by virtue of that earned more attention from the away side, with two Glens men booked for rash challenges on Forrester.
With still no sign of a goal Pat's threw on subs Jake Carroll, Jordan Keegan and Sean Gannon, and it was defender Gannon who went close to a debut goal on 72 minutes after a good build-up from Forrester but keeper Morris saved. Fellow sub Keegan, back at Pat's after spells away at Monaghan United and Scunthorpe United, almost nicked a late winner, but Pat's had to settle for yet another off-day at home in the competition with just two wins from their last six Setanta games at Richmond Park. Buckley later admitted his delight in the displays of new boys Gannon and Keegan. "Sean Gannon looks a player with the same sort of quality as Forrester and Jake Carroll. You look at Jordan Keegan's technique as well, he looks like a great player and I have no doubt that they'll all fit in with the way we want to play. They get on the ball and pass it well," he added.