St Patrick's Athletic signalled their intention to mount a strong defence of their SSE Airtricity League title scoring two goals in either half as Saints beat Drogheda United 4-0 at Hunky Dorys Park.

A brace in the space of two minutes just before half-time did the damage as Lee Lynch drilled home from 12 yards and then Chris Forrester struck with a goal of the season contender, volleying over Drogs keeper Dave Ryan from close to the half-way line.

Saints seemed content to counter-attack in the second half, but they did it effectively and Conan Byrne made the points safe on 70 minutes before Forrester struck again just before full-time.

A very quiet opening 20 minutes gave little sign of what was to come, with only one shot of any note from either side when Christy Fagan drilled wide following a poor kick-out from United keeper Dave Ryan.

But slowly the visitors began to turn the screw and Keith Fahey went close with a free kick, before Gavin Brennan had to clear off the Drogheda goal-line from a ball into the box by Forrester.

The visitors claimed loudly for a hand-ball in the box when a Lynch shot was blocked by a home defender, but the former Drogheda midfielder wasn’t to be denied as he broke the deadlock on 38 minutes.

United defender Alan McNally dallied and was beaten to the ball by Christy Fagan who advanced on goal before squaring to Lynch who drilled a low shot past Ryan.

Two minutes later Pat's had all three points virtually in the bag courtesy of a stunning strike from Forrester. The ball ping-ponged around midfield before dropping towards the Ireland Under-21 international five yards in from the left touchline and some 40 yards from goal.

Forrester struck the ball on the volley and caught Ryan a few yards off his line as it nestled in the back of the net.

Saints looked content to defend their lead in the second half and counter-attack when the opportunity arose, while Drogheda lacked the quality in the final third to seriously threaten the champions.

That said, they did finally achieve an attempt on target in the 57th minute when Brennan’s header from a Michael Daly cross was clutched on the line by Brendan Clarke.

But any chance of a fightback was extinguished on 70 minutes when Forrester’s delightful touch put Conan Byrne in behind the defence and he deftly glanced the ball beyond Ryan.

And Forrester put the icing on the cake when ghosting past two defenders and keeper Ryan in the 89th minute to make it four for Liam Buckley's champions.

Drogheda United: Dave Ryan; Michael Daly, Alan McNally, Ciaran McGuigan, Shane Grimes; Cathal Brady (Declan O’Brien 77), Stephen Maher, Eric Foley (Daire Doyle 32), Carl Walshe (O’Neill 56); Gavin Brennan; Philly Hughes. Subs not used: Paul Andrews, Paul Crowley, Dylan Connolly.

St Patrick's Athletic: Brendan Clarke; Ger O’Brien (Conor McCormack 81), Derek Foran, Sean Hoare, Ian Bermingham; Conan Byrne, James Chambers (Killian Brennan 69), Keith Fahey (Greg Bolger 73), Lee Lynch, Chris Forrester; Christy Fagan. Subs not used: Peter Durrad, Lorcan Fitzgerald, Daryl Kavanagh, Pat Jennings.

Referee: Robert Rogers (Dublin).