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Laws: Beating Pat's a route to Europe

THINGS started to go horribly wrong for Stephen Kenny when Shamrock Rovers last visited Richmond Park and, after learning all he needed to know last weekend about the task he faces, new boss Brian Laws takes his confidence-hit side back to Inchicore needing an unlikely win.

St Patrick's Athletic fans won't be long reminding their visiting rivals of the five goals they put past the champions back in April when the first signs that all was not well in Tallaght emerged.

Gary Twigg's subsequent revelation that the players had asked Kenny to stay out of the dressing-room at half-time did damage to the then manager's reputation, while the holes that the Saints picked in the Rovers defence exposed serious flaws that have never truly been fixed.

Tonight's Dublin derby is the first of six games that Laws has to save Rovers' season and, in turn, put him in the frame for the manager's job on a permanent basis.

He got a taste of the size of the job when his side meekly succumbed to Drogheda United in Saturday's EA Sports Cup final, and serious improvements are needed if they are to pull off a result tonight.

Pat's, meanwhile, retain faint hopes of the title. A win over Rovers would see Liam Buckley's men leapfrog Drogheda into second and put them six points behind Sligo Rovers with five games -- including a trip to the Showgrounds -- to go.

That April night was the most impressive that Buckley's men have been, and they will need to rediscover their killer instinct. With the Hoops enduring something of an injury crisis, particularly in an already porous defence, the hosts will be hoping to exploit their advantage.

Pat's captain Conor Kenna knows that Sligo's draw with Bray has handed them a way back into the race but he wants his charges to focus on tonight's derby. "We know that last week's results were favourable to us. We've been playing well recently and picking up results and all we can look to do is concentrate on our own performances and hope the run continues," he said.

Laws, meanwhile, has his eyes on Europe -- victory over St Pat's would close the gap to third to just two points. "We need to get over Saturday quickly as we have a big game to play. We still have a lot left to play for, as not only do we need to qualify for Europe ourselves, but we can also have a big say in what goes on in terms of all the European spots," he said.

Irish Independent