ST PATRICK'S Athletic defender Ian Bermingham believes Liam Buckley's men have to put their European campaign behind them and start winning league games if they are to have any say in the 2012 title race.
The Saints squad spent the weekend recovering from Thursday night's 2-0 loss to Hannover in Germany, but have started clocking up the mileage straight away as they have travelled south to play Cork City, in a rescheduled league game tonight.
Three league games without a win, including a disappointing home defeat to Drogheda United and some points dropped away to UCD, has left Pats with a lot of work to do if they are to challenge leaders Sligo Rovers and the chasing pack.
"We can still be in the title race but we just have to put some wins together, we can't afford any more draws," says former Shamrock Rovers man Bermingham.
"It's a very competitive league this season. Sligo have been leading for a while now and there's no sign of Drogheda slipping up - they have put a great run together apart from the game they lost to Sligo - and Rovers are there or thereabouts as well.
"With the squad we have I know we can do better and push on, make a real challenge for the title.
"You see the quality of the side we had out against Hannover on Thursday, lads like Jake Kelly and Vinny Faherty didn't feature so they can come into the frame now and stake a claim for themselves, and then try and push the team further up the table."
While the European run has been a highlight of the season, Pats have been harmed on the domestic front this season by their inability to put together a convincing run of form, with just two straight wins (over Bray and Dundalk at the start of the season and then over Bohemians and Shebourne in June) their best run of form.
That's in stark contrast with sides like Drogheda (seven wins from eight following their defeat of Bohemians last Friday) and Sligo, who managed an impressive three straight wins in May.
"We have to get some wins on the bounce, starting tonight," added Bermingham. "Cork away is a very tough game. I think Cork have only lost one or two games at Turner's Cross so winning there is a big ask, but we have to do it if we are to get into contention and at least get into Europe."
Bermingham says that a taste of the Europa League has made the Saints players want to reach the same stage even more next season and to do that they need a strong finish to the season.
"Playing in front of 30,000 people in a Bundesliga stadium is something else, a career highlight, but we want more of that next season so we have to make sure we qualify for Europe and the Champions League has to be the aim for us.
"It's a long time since Pats won the league so it's up to this group of players to put that right," added the defender.