SHAMROCK ROVERS captain Stephen Rice insists that his side will learn from letting last year's Airtricity League title slip after their grip on a first Premier Division crown in 16 years was loosened significantly with two defeats in five days, WRITES NEIL AHERN.
Having gone 17 games unbeaten midway through the season and opened up a commanding eight-point lead at the summit, the Hoops have now hit their worst run of form the campaign, taking just three points from their last four league games.
While the more pessimistic Rovers fans might be feeling a sense of déjà vu, Rice doesn't believe their experience of blowing a lead at the top last season will have a negative effect. On the contrary, he feels they can use it to their advantage.
"I don't think (it's a case of last season playing on their minds)," he said yesterday. "We need to learn from what happened last year and I think we can do that.
"There are a lot of players that were there last year that are not at the club any more so it's different.
"But we know it's important that we learn from last season and there's still confidence in this team that we can do that.
"We were obviously disappointed to lose the game but we're just as disappointed when we lose any game, whether it's Bohemians or not," continued the 25-year-old (pictured below), who spent four years at Dalymount Park.
"It's important that we don't treat it like it's the end of the world. The positive side of it is that we have put ourselves in a position to lose that game and still be two points clear at the top of the league.
"We worked hard for that all the way through the season and now we have to work hard to see it through."
Michael O'Neill's men face Sporting Fingal this Saturday in Tallaght before hosting basement club Drogheda United and then travelling to second-from-bottom Bray Wanderers for the final game of the season, but Rice refutes any suggestions that they have the easier run-in.
"We've seen this season that every team in this league is fighting hard for points and you can't take anything for granted -- that's the way it's been all year," he said.
"It's still in our hands so we just have to not mind anyone else and just look after ourselves."