AFTER a dodgy spell, when it seemed as if their crown was slipping, St Patrick's Athletic have the mark of champions once again as Christopher Forrester's stunning goals were just among the highlights from their very pleasant trip to Drogheda last night.
Given that the top two of Cork City and Dundalk had managed to scrape 2-0 away wins earlier in the day, the pressure was on the reigning league champions to also have a good day on the road and they made no mistake with a comfortable 4-0 win.
Their ability to retain the title questioned after a poor return of two points from three games, Pats know they can now make it five league wins in a row if they can overcome bottom side Athlone Town – who are on the worst run of any top flight side since the 1940s – on Friday night.
The Saints had huffed and puffed for large spells of the game early on, but once midfielder Lee Lynch broke the deadlock with a shot on 39 minutes, it was clear Pats were on their way
A goal from Forrester – a lob from the halfway line – was just some added flavour to the win on an evening when the former Bohemians man did his reputation no harm.
"It's a bit of a daze to me now, I will need to see it again but I remember it falling for me, I fancied hitting it as I knew Dave Ryan would be off his line," said Forrester of his superb strike.
"I knew I might get it over him, it was probably a bit outrageous of me to try it, but I am happy it went in and I am happy for the lads that we got the win.
"That was the most important thing, that's more important than individual accolades.
"I had a bit of a rough week and was getting a hard time over missing that chance against Bohs, people say I don't score a lot of tap-ins, but I don't care what way they go in once we win and we push on to Athone now."
There was something of a derby feel to the game with three former Pats players in the Drogheda side, but United found it hard to get close to threatening Brendan Clarke's goal, though the Drogs' cause was not helped when key midfielder Eric Foley had to limp off after 30 minutes.
But by half time it was game over, Lynch getting the first from close range after keeper Dave Ryan had blocked Chris Fagan's shot. Four minutes before the break, U21 cap Forrester scored the finest goal of his career so far – though he rarely scores ordinary goals – with a long-distance lob after he spotted Ryan off his line.
Forrester was the creator of the Saints' third goal on 71 minutes, leaving Conan Byrne with a simple tap-in.
Apart from a Daire Doyle header on 76 minutes, Drogheda posed no real threat to Clarke in the Pats goal, Clarke easily dealing with an 85th-minute free-kick from Declan O'Brien while at the other end, sub Killian Brennan seemed determined to score for the Saints but was just off target.
The Saints did score again but duties fell to Forrester, the midfielder waltzing past the United defence and sliding the ball past Ryan.
Without a point in their last three games, Drogheda now dust themselves down for a clash with Shamrock Rovers on Friday, but Pats look like a side capable of going on a lengthy winning streak.
"We didn't know before the game that Dundalk and Cork had won their games, I only found out after our game that Dundalk had got a last-minute winner, they will be up there this season," added Forrester. "As long as we keep winning and keep the pressure up, we won't worry about them and will let our football do the talking."