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Sunday 30 April 2017

'We have good individuals but are a poor unit'

St Patrick’s Athletic manager Liam Buckley. Pic: Sportsfile
St Patrick’s Athletic manager Liam Buckley. Pic: Sportsfile

As a club they are keen to play down early talk about a relegation battle.

But even Liam Buckley, facing the toughest test of his seven-year reign as St Patrick's Athletic manager, admits that his players have yet to knit together into a unit that can climb out of trouble and stresses that they need to do better.

Defeat at home to Finn Harps on Monday night leaves Pat's with just one point from four games and puts the club who were champions only four years ago joint bottom of the table.

It's hard for Saints fans to swallow, especially as they have seen Pat's reject Dinny Corcoran - unused for most of the season by Saints last season - score three goals in two wins for city rivals Bohemians.

It's a relatively new-look side as four of the starting XI in Monday's disappointing display at home to Harps only arrived in the off-season but even so, a squad containing five players with Premier Division medals should not be so low in the table.

Stephen Bradley. Pic: Sportsfile
Stephen Bradley. Pic: Sportsfile

"I am not looking at the table from a relegation or a European spot point of view, I just want to try and get our team playing better. I expect more from the guys we have," says Buckley.

"Individually, we have a lot of top players but collectively we are just average. That's why our performances have been that way in the first three or four games.

"Last week, against Sligo, we did enough to win the game, a draw would have been a fair result on Monday.

"The players all want to do right but they are not doing it well together. We need to get a better balance in the team, and we will have a look at the bigger picture, shape-wise but Monday wasn't good enough and we can't afford to have too many games like that," added Buckley, fearful of a rot setting in.

"I have been there at both ends, when you are winning you can't see yourself losing and when you're losing it's very difficult to see yourself winning. It's four games gone, we have a lot of new lads in the side that we are trying to bed in and it's not up to speed yet."

Getting points on board is the main focus for the club but gate receipts have to be a concern again. The Saints had an attendance of just 895 for Monday's loss to Finn Harps, a drop of 1,000 punters from their previous home game.

The unpopular nature of Monday night games, as far as fans is concerned, is an issue while Monday's League of Ireland programme also went head to head with the live broadcast of the Chelsea-Manchester United FA Cup tie.

Even in their title-winning season, crowds at Richmond Park were not at the level desired and gates last season were overall poor, though boss Buckley feels that Monday Night Football is a loss-making exercise for the league here.

"Mondays never work," he says. "I never remember a big game on a Monday night that has had a big crowd around the country, especially when you have Manchester United playing Chelsea on the TV. It's difficult.

"I would prefer to get rid of the Monday games, stretch out the season, don't play these Monday games, get people used to coming back on the Friday night and just make the season a bit longer."

Meanwhile, Stephen Bradley has warned Shamrock Rovers fans that the side still have some catching-up to do on the teams ahead of them.

Monday's win away to Galway United puts the Hoops into the top five, but they are still six points behind Cork City and boss Bradley knows there's a gap.

"It takes take time. Cork and Dundalk have built for three or four years and Cork haven't managed to get near them," he says.

"It'll take us time and it's not going to happen in one season. I was in a team that had to build to go and catch Bohs, I understand what it takes to build."

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