ST PAT'S boss Pete Mahon has told his players they have to take all three points against Dublin rivals Sporting Fingal tonight if they are to stand a chance of landing the league title this season.
The Saints led the pack for so long earlier in the season and fans of the Inchicore club started dreaming of a possible title triumph, the first since 1999, but that momentum behind Pats has slowed down in recent weeks with just one win from the last five games.
Shamrock Rovers have been taking full advantage of those dropped points, Michael O'Neill's side now on a run of three straight wins with another likely at home to an under-strength UCD side tonight, so it's really at the make or break stage for Pats as they travel north of the Liffey to take on Fingal.
"It's a game we have to win if we want to win the league. We were even with Rovers there a few weeks ago but we are five points behind now and we can't get too far behind if we want to win the league," said Mahon, as his side are more in need of points after Friday's draw with Sligo Rovers, a game which was extra costly for Pats as influential midfielder Dave Mulcahy faces a long spell on the sideines with an injury he picked up.
"We played against a very good side on Friday, we fully deserved a point and with a bit of luck could have won the game, but a draw was a fair result.
"We changed the shape of our team to counter Sligo. We had sat back and shown them too much respect but we sorted that out at half time and we took the game to them in the second half. We did everything we could to win, we hit the post but I can't have any complaints.
"There's a fine line between winning or drawing games. While we had some luck in previous games, we didn't get that on Friday night. And that could be a costly point for us as we lost Dave Mulcahy and Danny North. I don't think we'll see Dave Mulcahy for a few weeks and Danny is out of this game tonight unless he makes a miraculous recovery. That's part and parcel of football. We had a good run so far in terms of injuries so I can't complain now," added Mahon.
Their opponents tonight have ambitions of their own, but Fingal boss Liam Buckley denies that this fixture will make or break their season.
"We've drawn twice at Inchicore so far but, as the home team, we'll be expecting to take the initiative for this one," said Buckley, a former Pats player and manager. "Our players realise this game will not make or break their season but are aware of the opportunity it gives them to put themselves into a better position three quarters way through the campaign," added Buckley.
Also tonight, champions Bohemians make the trip to Louth for the second time in four days as they hope to build on Friday's 2-1 win over Dundalk with another three-point haul, this time away to Drogheda United.
The game is being played as the original fixture back in July was abandoned due to a floodlight failure related to a power cut, and even though this is an away game, Bohs can still bring in some much-needed revenue as, under league rules, the gate receipts for the refixture of an abandoned game are split between the two clubs.
It's a massive game in a massive week for Pat Fenlon's side as the next two matches will have a huge bearing on their season and the plans for next term. Bohs need a win to stay in touch with leaders Shamrock Rovers, but Bohs can at least go clear in second place if they can better the result achieved by St Pats away to Sporting Fingal.
And on Friday Bohs renew acquaintances with old rivals Shelbourne in the FAI Cup, as a win there for Bohs would put them into the last eight of the competition and boost their chances of winning a trophy and qualifying for Europe.