Champions St Patrick’s Athletic will host bottom of the table Athlone Town in the SSE Airtricity League Premier Division tonight hoping to keep the pressure on leaders Cork City who meet Bohemians at Turner’s Cross.
John Caulfield’s City are top of the table on goal difference with a game in hand on joint leaders Dundalk, who will face a testing visit to Bray Wanderers.
Dundalk boss Stephen Kenny said: “Bray Wanderers are good side. Alan Mathews has them playing well and they are dangerous opponents. It won’t be an easy game at all in the Carlisle Grounds but from our point of view we are on a terrific run of form.
"We are unbeaten in 12 and we want to keep that winning form going tomorrow night. We’re expecting a tough game but we’ll be ready.”
Kenny has a full squad to choose from apart from midfielder Stephen O'Donnell who will miss the rest of the season with a cruciate ligament injury.
Bray welcome back stand-in skipper Dave Webster after suspension as manager Alan Mathews looks for his young squad to bounce back from Monday’s disappointing defeat to Shamrock Rovers.
Mathews said: “We improved after the second goal and in the end we were very unlucky not to have taken something from the game.”
Despite the return of Webster, Bray will still be missing club captain Danny O'Connor, defender Shane O'Connor, midfielder Shane Byrne and striker Jake Kelly.
Cork are defending the division’s only unbeaten league record and host a Bohs side looking to halt a three-game losing streak.
City manager John Caulfield said: “I believe that if you look too far ahead, you will lose your focus. We have no reason to focus on anyone but Bohemians, because it is a huge game for us. We’re on a great run, the attitude is fantastic and we are still unbeaten, for which there is great credit due to the lads.”
Darren Dennehy is suspended for the game following his sending off on Monday, while Darren Murphy will also miss out after sustaining a hamstring injury which saw him substituted in the same fixture.
Colin Healy, who was on the bench for the last two games following an ankle injury, should be available, as should Brian Lenihan who recovered from a hamstring injury. Michael Rafter has been ruled out for several weeks, while Danny Morrissey is working his way back towards fitness. Caulfield also confirmed that Anthony Elding will be in contention for the squad, having missed out on the UCD game as he worked to build up his fitness after injury.
Playing an in-form Cork City in front of a hostile crowd of 5,000 should hold no fear for Bohemians, according to manager Owen Heary.
“This should be what a player lives for. You might go one place where there’s a crowd of a couple of hundred and you score three goals, or you can go to Cork where there’s a huge crowd roaring at you.
“The players are taking heart from not being far from getting something from the best teams. But we have to get rid of the fear factor, or going out to play worrying about what happens if...”
Bohemians have to plan without striker Dinny Corcoran (knee ligament injury), but Jason Byrne is likely to start. Jack Memery (knee) has returned to light training but is not yet fit for possible selection, while Anto Murphy (hamstring) may be back training next week.
After a slow start St Pat’s have won four games in a row but they will be wary of wounded Athlone, who are desperate to pick up their first points of the campaign after nine losses in succession.
Saints boss Liam Buckley said: “We’re on a good run at the moment in the league so we just want to continue that.
"We had two good wins on the bounce recently in the games against Bohemians and Drogheda so we’re looking to keep this good momentum going.”
Buckley welcomes Kenny Browne back into the fold after the Waterford-born centre-back served a one-match ban. Fellow defender Ken Oman will sit out the game as he recovers from a back injury.
Athlone boss Mick Cooke said: “It is a huge ask to go to Richmond Park and get a result be we are well capable of doing it. No one gave us a chance against Dundalk on Monday but we were excellent despite missing a number of players and anyone there will tell you we deserved at least a point from the game.”
Aidan Collins and Neil Harney are out injured for Athlone, while Sean Byrne is suspended. Paul Skinner, Derek Prendergast and Alan Byrne all return after missing out on Monday's through suspension.
Shamrock Rovers are looking to stay on the coat-tails of the leading three sides but will be expecting nothing easy against a Drogheda United side looking to return to form after three defeats on the bounce.
Drogheda must plan without Michéal Schlingermann and Austin McCann, while Eric Foley has been ruled out for a fortnight following an ankle injury sustained during the defeat to St Pat’s.
Drogheda boss Robbie Horgan said: “We are always confident of picking up a result. It is important that we put an end to this slide having gone undefeated for the first six games. I think a draw would probably be a good result for us given our recent form but we go out to every game with the intention of picking up a win and Friday will be no different.”
For Rovers, Dean Kelly (calf) and Sean O’Connor (hamstring) are both ruled out of the game through injury.
Speaking ahead of the game, Hoops boss Trevor Croly said: “Drogheda is always a good venue from a playing point of view. We got a good result on Monday and this is a chance for us to build on that by securing another three points. But Drogheda had a poor result last week and will be looking to put that right.
“The lads have been excellent in recent weeks and have showed great determination, even when playing with just 10 men. They’re showing great resolve. And we also had great support away from home this season, which has really helped us. We know we’ll have that again on Friday night.”
Limerick’s meeting with Sligo Rovers at Thomond Park also promises to be an evenly matched encounter as each comes into the tie on the back of two wins and two draws from their last four league fixtures.
“It’s going to be a very difficult game because Sligo are flying high just now," said Limerick boss Stuart Taylor. They’ve come into a bit of form. Unfortunately, they’ve leapfrogged us in the table. That was disappointing obviously with the result that we had on Monday.
“I went to see them a couple of weeks ago. They are getting everybody back on track. They had a similar start to ourselves but they’re going well now.
“They had a great result recently against St. Pat’s (5-1 in the Setanta Sports Cup) and since then they’ve been on a run and won their games.”
Centre-half Michael Leahy (groin) has suffered a slight setback in his bid to regain full fitness.
Winger Danny Galbraith (hamstring) will resume full training in the coming days having been absent since last September, while striker and vice-captain Craig Curran (hamstring) will face a late fitness test. The versatile Patrick Nzuzi returns from suspension.
Sligo boss Ian Baraclough will have the same squad available as last Monday and Seamus Conneely has now trained sufficiently to become part of the group. Raffaele Cretaro (calf) and Gavin Peers (knee) are the only absentees.
Baraclough said: "I think Stuart has targeted being tighter at the back and results have started to come. We are not travelling there expecting to score five, six or seven goals. We have to break Limerick down, we have to be at our best and find that way to win once again."
Derry City have yet to find their form this term under new manager Roddy Collins but they will be favourites as they welcome UCD to the Brandywell.
Speaking ahead of the game Derry boss Roddy Collins said: “We are really looking forward to the game, coming off the back of two poor displays where the only positive points were the two clean sheets that we have had.
"We haven’t been creating enough chances which is disappointing and that is reflected in the amount of goals we have scored. With the loss since the start of the season of Barry McNamee we haven’t really had anybody who can hold into the ball and create for us."
The Candystripes will be without the services of Barry McNamee (calf) and Barry Molloy (hamstring) but will welcome back Ryan McBride into the squad.
The Students have lost their last three league games, however, boss Aaron Callaghan is positive about his side’s chances of picking up a good result especially as his side have won the last two games between the sides at the Brandywell.
Callaghan said: “After another good performance on Monday we will be hopeful of picking up a positive result against Derry. Over the last few years we have picked up some good results in the Brandywell and if we can start creating more chances in front of goal there is no reason why we can’t pick up another.”
UCD will be without Ayman Ben Mohamed (knee), while Ian Ryan is also likely to miss out with a foot injury. Dean Clarke (back) will also miss out, and Robbie Creevy (groin strain) faces a late fitness tests ahead of the game. Tomas Boyle returns from suspension.