THE keeper with the best defensive record in the league right now has paid tribute to the men in front of him for the part they have played for St Patrick's Athletic.
The Saints, who can establish a six-point lead at the top of the Premier Division table tonight if they can win away at Bray Wanderers, have conceded just 13 goals in their 28 league games so far this season with an astonishing six clean sheets in the last seven games for stopper Brendan Clarke.
"We have done well going forward this season and scored a lot of goals but we're very strong defensively and that has us where we are," says Clarke.
"The back four in front of me are excellent, they have been all season.
"Over time you get into a rhythm, you get to know what players are like, get to know their mannerisms and read them on the pitch.
"It's a matter of continuity as well, we have had the same back four for most of the season but when others have had to come in, as Aidan Price has done, they just slot in and do the same job. As a keeper it's great to have a back four like that in front of you."
Pats have used the same back four – Ger O'Brien, Conor Kenna, Kenny Browne and Ian Bermingham – for most of the season as they have played as a unit in 21 of their 28 games, and in recent weeks they have frustrated most of the league. Apart from a 2-0 loss to Shamrock Rovers in the FAI Cup, the only person to score against Pats in a run going back to August 2 was Bohemians man Dave Mulcahy.
That back four unit will be changed for this game as Kenny Browne, who has missed just two league games all season, serves a one-match ban so Price is ready to fill in at centre-half.
That form has seen Pats go clear at the top of the table and the fixture list this week suits them as the Saints are in action tonight in Bray, 24 hours before their rivals all play.
But even though Liam Buckley's side have a blemish-free record against Bray this season – three wins in three games and an aggregate score of 6-0 – Clarke says that tonight will not be a mere trip to the seaside.
"Bray are fighting for their lives, I don't like using that phrase as it can sound disrespectful but they are in the bottom two and they need to get out of there. We know that before a ball is kicked that we'll have a hard game," says Clarke.
"If we aren't tuned in and focused on what we have to do, if we think as players that we just have to turn up to get the points then we'll suffer.
"Any team that has Jason Byrne in their side can harm you. Jason is a top player. We had to vote for our PFAI team of the year the other day and I had Jay in my team, that's how good he has been this season.
"We know what Bray are like as we've played them a few times this season, it's just a matter of us having the right attitude on the night so we can go on and get the win we need.
"We had a good win at home to Dundalk last week but that will count for nothing if we slip up against Bray.
"It's great to be clear at the top of the table but we have nothing won yet. Dundalk are right behind us and Sligo are still in the hunt as well, they can't be ruled out by any means.
"So we need to go for the win and if we don't do our jobs properly against Bray we will get turned over," added Clarke.