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'Ability-wise, there are not many who can touch him, it's about getting that out of him every week'

Stephen O’Donnell is hoping Chris Forrester can have a big impact for his team this season.

Chris Forrester (file pic).
Chris Forrester (file pic).
Image: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

STEPHEN O’DONNELL SAYS he has been pleased with the progress made by Chris Forrester, as the St Pat’s manager prepares for this evening’s Dublin derby away to Bohemians (kick-off: 6pm).

The Saints’ side has a relatively new look this season. There were five debutants in the starting XI for their opening game away to Shamrock Rovers, while Sam Bone subsequently made his first league start since joining the club in the 2-1 win at home to Drogheda.

Forrester, by contrast, is one of the most familiar faces at the Richmond Park outfit. He has played every minute of their opening two games, with Pat’s taking an encouraging four points to leave them in a relatively healthy-looking position early on.

The 28-year-old began his career at Bohs, before making over 100 appearances for their rivals between 2012 and 2015.

Forrester earned a move to England on the back of those displays, joining Peterborough United. He initially excelled with the League One team, gaining comparisons to Michael Carrick and being named the Players’ Player of the Year for the 2015-16 campaign.

Yet he ultimately fell out of favour and a £200,000 move to Aberdeen proved short-lived, with homesickness and personal issues a factor in his decision to return home for a second spell with Pat’s in 2019.

There have been spectacular moments since then, but the sense remains that there is potentially much more to come from Forrester.

The club finished a somewhat disappointing sixth amid last year’s truncated 18-game season, with Bohs beating them on both occasions in the league, and O’Donnell will be hoping the talented midfielder can help them hit greater heights this year.

“Everybody knows Chris’ talent and he is applying himself really well in training. He’s looking fit and sharp, so long may that continue.

“He’s getting a bit of consistency into his game in the way that he trains every day. Ability-wise, there are not many who can touch him, it’s about getting that out of him every week.

“His work rate and the distances that he is covering in matches during the first couple of weeks have been right up at the top. So I’m delighted with him, he just needs to back that up week on week.”

In contrast with Pat’s, Bohs have had a bad start to the season. Last year’s runners-up began with a surprise 1-0 loss to Finn Harps, while they could only manage a 2-2 draw at home to newly-promoted Longford.

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“It’s going to be a tough game no matter what way the first two results went,” O’Donnell says. “You could look at it from both points of view. If they won both their games, you’d say you were coming up against a team full of confidence and if they haven’t, you’re saying they could be a wounded animal. Either way, they are a good team with good players and a massive squad.”

In addition to Forrester, O’Donnell talked up Robbie Benson, Ronan Coughlan and Billy King, with the latter two players scoring the crucial goals in last Saturday’s win against Drogheda.

There were also words of encouragement for two of the squad’s younger players. 18-year-old Darragh Burns made a 71st-minute appearance off the bench and provided the assist for King’s dramatic late winner.

“It could have been easy for him to get excited in the box, take a touch and smash it across the goal, but his composure to identify the scenario and execute that clipped cross to Billy at the back post was excellent. He has been doing really well, training really well, but it’s about knowing the right time to implement the young players.”

Meanwhile, after an impressive debut in the 1-1 draw with Shamrock Rovers, 19-year-old Liverpool loanee Vitezslav Jaros was at fault for the concession of a goal versus Drogheda, though O’Donnell praised the young goalkeeper for his response to this error.

“You saw the way he bounced back after the mistake for the goal, with his distribution and he made a great save from Ronan Murray and he claimed crosses as well. His mentality to bounce back after the mistake was unbelievable. I didn’t knock a budge out of him and for a player to have a mentality like that so young is brilliant. I thought he reacted very well and during the week, he has been his usual self.”

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Paul Fennessy

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