Stephen Kenny has challenged his Shamrock Rovers players to catapult themselves back into contention for the Airtricity Premier Division title ahead of tonight’s game with UCD in the UCD Bowl.

Kenny’s men secured a vital three points against his former club Derry City last week and they can close the gap on leaders Sligo Rovers to just four points with a victory in Belfield.

The Bit o’ Red will have two matches in hand but they are against the sides in second and third place, Drogheda United and St Patrick’s Athletic, and ahead of a pivotal time in the race for the league crown, three points would put extra pressure on the sides surrounding the Hoops.

Kenny said: “The team have kept three clean sheets in four games and that’s the kind of stability we need from the back four.

“We can take confidence from the win and clean sheet in Derry last week into Friday night’s game in Belfield. But one win in isolation is nothing; we need to back that up with another win against UCD.”

The home side will be looking to claim their first league win in seven matches with their season has deteriorating in recent weeks.

Martin Russell’s young team face major relegation worries, trailing Dundalk by three points ahead of this week’s games.

The Students will be without John Kelly, Graham Rusk, Chris Mulhall and Cillian Morrison through injury while David O’Connor and Samir Belhour are both suspended.

Goalkeeper Ger Barron is set to return from a toe injury.

Russell believes his side will enjoy taking on the Hoops: "We weren’t able to gain the points our play deserved at Hunky Dorys Park against Drogheda United, but if we maintain the attributes that we displayed there and also on our last home tie with St Pat’s, we will prove ourselves worthy opponents to our visitors.

"It’s a game against the champions which we are looking forward to and gives our young players a chance and a platform to perform which they will be relishing."

Rovers are without Aaron Greene (knee), Graham Gartland (back) and Stephen O’Donnell (hamstring), while Ken Oman will do a fitness test before the game.