St Patrick’s Athletic welcome league leaders Sligo Rovers to Richmond Park tonight with Liam Buckley’s side looking to end the champions unbeaten start to the season.
The Inchicore outfit are currently sitting in third place in the table, nine points behind tonight’s opponents, however with victory this evening and in their game in hand, St Pat’s could close the gap to just three points.
Saints have had a decent start to the season, despite losing to Shamrock Rovers and Dundalk, as they have won their other five league fixtures, most recently storming past Shelbourne 4-0 on Monday night.
Talisman Chris Forrester grabbed a hat-trick in that victory over Shels and his goals could prove vital this season, as Saints struggled in that department in last year’s campaign.
And manager Buckley is happy with his side’s start to the season and is confident that his side will keep improving following their impressive performance on Monday night.
Buckley said: “Monday was a good win against Shels and a good performance. We created quite a lot chances and scored a couple of goals which was nice. The lads played really well and our general play was better. We need to keep improving that further as we go on this season.
“We had three really tight and competitive games with Sligo last year that could have gone either way.
Goalkeeper Brendan Clarke is set to have a late fitness test on a knee injury sustained in training last weekend. Pat’s are, however, boosted with the news that Shane McFaul is expected to be available for selection having recovered from a groin strain.
For Saints’ midfielder John Russell, the visit of Sligo sees the Galweigan face some of his former teammates from his successful spell at the Showgrounds.
Having won two FAI Cup’s with the club, Russell is looking forward to the challenge of getting the upper hand on the Bit O’Red. The Pats’ man also believes that the Saints are now hitting form after a disrupted start to the season.
Russell said: “Playing against my old side, I want to do well. The Shels win on Monday has given us confidence going into Friday as with the few games being cancelled a few weeks ago, we were kind of struggling to get into our stride. But the win and scoring a few goals has us in good spirits ahead of Sligo.
“Hopefully we’ll do well on the night, and if we can win the midfield battle on Friday, I think we’ll have a great chance of winning.”
Sligo arrive in Inchicore looking to make it nine league wins this season and manager Ian Baraclough is looking for his side to bounce back from Tuesday’s Setanta Sports Cup defeat to Drogheda United.
Baraclough said: "We were always going to have a knock back and it came on Tuesday. There was disappointment amongst all the players and that the goals came from our own mistakes, if you like. We weren’t opened up and you can’t afford to concede goals that way or you can lose games.
"We put that tie to one side because it is back to the league where we go to Richmond Park aiming for a positive result and to keep our league form so far this season going.
"It’s going to be nip and tuck like the games between the sides were last season. Pat’s are at home, the onus is on them and I expect it will be a good game between two footballing sides if the conditions are right.
"They’ve been playing catch-up with the postponed fixtures but have won most of their games. It is a similar squad to last season, they’ve kept the same shape and have some top quality players.”
For Sligo, Joseph Ndo is in contention but Danny North (knee), Seamus Conneely (knee) and Ciaran Kelly (fractured sternum) miss out.
Live television coverage of St Patrick’s Athletic v Sligo Rovers from 7:00pm on RTÉ Two and RTÉ.ie (Worldwide excluding GB & NI). Highlights and analysis of all the weekend’s action on MNS from 7pm on Monday 22 April on RTÉ Two and RTÉ.ie (Worldwide).