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Irish Mirror
Irish Mirror
Paul O'Hehir

St Pat's 1-1 Mura: Chris Forrester scores second half equaliser in eventful Europa Conference League clash

Chris Forrester scored the equaliser that St Pat’s brave performance deserved - and almost provided a magical winner in the dying stages.

After volleying home a stunning strike to cancel out Mura’s gifted opener, he glided past four half-baked challenges with four minutes remaining.

Those wedged into Richmond Park were on their feet because when Forrester is on song, he tends to do extraordinary things.

And that would have been extraordinary timing for Tim Clancy’s side who deserved more than a draw.

Forrester had been central to the home side’s best work throughout the game as St Pat’s tormented their Slovenian opponents with an all-action display.

Mura, who fielded just four of the team that beat Tottenham in the group stages last year, struggled to cope with the sheer relentlessness of Saints approach.

And they were mightily relieved when Forrester’s mazy run into the box in those final throes ended up with the goalkeeper gathering at the second attempt

Whatever happens in Slovenia next week, St Pat’s won’t be travelling in fear because they created all the chances.

And they were in their stride early.

Barry Cotter could - and should - have made himself an instant hero with his first touch in a Saints jersey following his loan move from Shamrock Rovers.

But he skied the ball from 12 yards after Mark Doyle picked him out.

Still, it was a sign of what was to come from a fired up St Pat’s side eager to make their mark against opponents who made the group stages of this competition last year.

And it was red wave after red wave of attack with the UEFA-restricted, all-seater crowd of just 2,700 gripped by the electricity ripping through the tight ground.

Anto Breslin forced an acrobatic save from goalkeeper Matko Obradovic when Adam O’Reilly found the raiding wing-back with a diagonal ball.

Mura were dazed as they tried to figure out what had hit them.

Forrester fizzed a shot wide from a quick Tom Grivosti free as the pressure on the Slovenians was ramped up.

But then, out of nothing in the 28th minute, Saints shot themselves in the foot and handed Mura the lead against the run of play.

Harry Brockback received Cotter’s throw in but his attempted back pass to Joseph Anang was seized upon by Mirlind Daku.

The Kosovo striker - who scored in the previous round too - was the only full international in Mura’s starting team.

But he always carried a threat and made light work of Brockbank’s gift. He rounded Anang and coolly slotted home from an angle.

Up to that point, the visitors had barely laid a glove on their hosts - and therein lies the frustration.

Still, Clancy’s charges responded well from the setback and finished the half on the front foot.

Breslin’s low ball into the box had Obradovic scrambling to gather under pressure from Eoin Doyle and Cotter.

Mark Doyle’s shot soon after needed a purposeful clearance from a covering defender and Joe Redmond’s header from a corner in injury-time wasn’t that far away.

League of Ireland clubs have experienced that sinking feeling many times in European games, where they have deserved more for their efforts than they end up with.

But the determination with which St Pat’s started the game only intensified after the break - and they duly got their rewards on the hour.

Forrester had plenty of work to do when he collected an Eoin Doyle layoff, from Cotter’s throw-in deep in Mura territory.

But he also has a knack of making hard work look easy and after controlling the ball on his knee, while on the run, he volleyed high into the Mura net with the aid of the bar.

Mura refused to buckle and had enough about them to keep the Saints honest for the remainder, not least when Anang denied sub Dardan Shabanhaxhaj.

But Forrester almost won it in the dying minutes, but after a run laced with invention, he couldn’t get purchase on the shot away after gliding into the box.

Mark Doyle’s straight red in injury-time, for an apparent elbow on Klemen Pucko, was hotly disputed by the home side and means he is unavailable in Slovenian next week.

But St Pat’s won’t fear the trek. Not after this display.


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