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SSE Airtricity League previews: Dundalk look to push on at Showgrounds

Updated: Monday, 18 Aug 2014 16:39 | Comments

Dundalk will be hoping to enhance their superb recent record at the Showgrounds
Dundalk will be hoping to enhance their superb recent record at the Showgrounds

Sligo Rovers v Dundalk, The Showgrounds, 7.45pm

Dundalk will look to maintain their four-point lead at the top of the table as they travel to the north-west to face Sligo Rovers at the Showgrounds.

The Lilywhites are chasing their third successive win at the Showground, with Dane Massey proving to be the hero in the previous two encounters, coming up with the only goal in 1-0 victories in 2013 and 2014.

Manager Stephen Kenny has plenty of options with a very strong squad to choose from with only long-term absentee Stephen O’Donnell and Simon Kelly missing through injury.

O'Donnell is recovering from a knee injury, while Kelly is still suffering the effects of a calf injury.

Dundalk defender Sean Gannon knows that it will be a tough task to get the points in Sligo but believes that there is the confidence within the squad to win every game.

Gannon said: “Sligo Rovers are a good team and they’re going to give us a tough game. We know that and it is always a difficult trip there. We’re looking forward to it but we go out to win every game.”

Sligo are still looking for a top-four finish as they sit nine points behind Shamrock Rovers and will be looking to build on Friday night's victory in Bray.

Bit O'Red boss John Coleman has been impressed with his side in recent weeks and believes his charges have nothing to fear as they take on the league leaders.

Coleman said: "We've improved in the last few weeks. We showed good character in Bray and it was a credit to the lads.

"Dundalk are top of this league for a reason but I've no fears for my players that they won't acquit themselves well.

"We have to take responsibility on Monday, to enthuse the fans and enthuse ourselves and go and try to win the game as we always do."

In team news, John Russell is awaiting scan results on a foot injury and is doubtful, Jeff Henderson (foot), Raffaele Cretaro (calf) and Iarfhlaith Davoren (hamstring) are injured but Danny North returns from suspension.

Cork City v Bray Wanderers, Turner’s Cross, 7.45pm

Cork City welcome Bray Wanderers to Turner’s Cross hoping to close the four-point gap on Dundalk.

The Leesides have returned to form since their defeat to Dundalk at the start of the month with successive 1-0 wins over Derry City and St Patrick’s Athletic.

Manager John Caulfield believes that his side are still in with a shout of the league title once they remained focus with the job at hand.

Caulfield said: “After the Dundalk game, people may have thought we were out of it, but we bounced back and have shown great character and hopefully we can stay in there.

"I keep telling the players we need to keep focussed, keep looking after ourselves and see where it gets us.” 

The City boss confirmed that he is likely to make a number of changes to his starting eleven from Friday night, with injury and suspension forcing his hand.

“We will have to make at least two changes, but we will probably make three or four to try and freshen things up," said Caulfield.

Long-term absentee Michael Rafter is again joined on the sidelines by Rob Lehane, while John O’Flynn will miss out having picked up a knock after scoring the winner against Derry on Friday night.

Garry Buckley, Billy Dennehy and Colin Healy all return from suspension, however, Ross Gaynor will sit out the game as he serves a one-match ban.

Bray have picked up just two points from their last 12 games, and suffered a home defeat to Sligo Rovers on Friday night.

Bohemians v Shamrock Rovers, Dalymount Park, 7.45pm

There is a fascinating Dublin derby in store at Dalymount Park as former Bohemians manager Pat Fenlon returns to Phibsboro now in charge of arch rivals Shamrock Rovers.

Bohemians' home form has let them down this season and they have only won two games at home, including Friday night's win against Drogheda United, while Rovers conceded a late equaliser to Athlone Town to further dent their diminishing title hopes.

The Hoops sit 12 points off leaders Dundalk and European qualification is now perhaps the most realistic goal for Rovers. 

The sides met two weeks ago, before Fenlon’s appointment, in the EA SPORTS Cup semi-final with Rovers coming on out on top thanks to goals from Marty Waters and Dean Kelly as the Hoops won 2-0 at Dalymount.

Ryan Brennan is ruled out for Rovers as he is struggling with an ankle injury that he picked up in the game against Athlone, while Luke Byrne remains a doubt.

Ciaran Kilduff returns to the squad after his recent calf injury.

Fenlon knows all about the intensity of this fixture and wants his side's performance to match the atmosphere that is always present at the historic Dublin venue.

Fenlon said: "Games between Rovers and Bohs always take on a different meaning and it's never just about the three points on offer. But that's obviously the most important thing to us at the moment.

"We need to make sure we match the intensity of the game. We need to go out and play football, but that's not enough in games like this, we also need to be up for it and ready for that intensity. We will need full focus and concentration on the night."

It will be the first managerial clash of Owen Heary and his former boss Fenlon and the Bohs supremo knows what the new Rovers manager can bring to a team.

Heary said: “[Pat is] the best manager around and he will make it a tough test for us.

“If we win and other results go for us we’re right back in the hunt for a Setanta Cup spot, and that’s the aim for us for the rest of the season.”

Jack Memery is sitting exams, while Anto Murphy is injured and Steven Beattie and Robert Lopes are suspended.

Drogheda United v Derry City, United Park, 7.45pm

Drogheda’s United’s three-game unbeaten run came to a sudden halt with a 2-1 defeat to Bohemians on Friday.

As a result, Damien Richardson’s team remain in ninth, seven points ahead of UCD and Bray.

Speaking ahead of the game, Richardson said: “Derry are a very attractive side and play good football in the tradition of the football club and having lost a couple of games, they, like ourselves, will be very eager to get back on the winning trail, which suggests that it's going to be a very competitive and entertaining game."

Stephen Maher is still out with an ankle injury, while Gavin Brennan and Gavan Holohan are suspended.

Derry are looking to bounce back from consecutive defeats to Cork and Shamrock Rovers and boss Peter Hutton is not concerned about how they do it.

Hutton said: "It's imperative now that we get something from the Drogheda game. At the minute I would take an ugly win. All this nice, intricate, free-flowing football is great, but it doesn't get you points.”

St Patrick’s Athletic v Limerick, Richmond Park, 7.45pm

St Patrick’s Athletic sit in third place, 10 points behind Dundalk and six off Cork in second.

The Saints were more comfortable against UCD on Friday than the 3-2 scoreline suggests, but manager Liam Buckley will be disappointed that their disciplinary problems continue with Greg Bolger the latest to see a needless red card. The midfielder will serve a suspension against Limerick.

The visitors will look to stop their rot on the road as they have lost their last four away games, with Friday’s defeat at league leaders Dundalk coming with just six minutes left on the clock.

Martin Russell's side face another difficult task at the home of the Saints, who have won 10 of their 12 league games at Richmond Park this season. That includes winning the last nine, a period where they have scored 29 goals.

The Superblues can take confidence from the fact they are one of the two teams – alongside Dundalk – to get a result at the Inchicore venue this term, having drawn 1-1 back in March.

“We’ve done well against Pat’s," said vice-captain Samuel Oji.

"We drew at their place and won at our place. Again, we should go there with no fear. We’ll show them the respect that they’re due but at the same time go there believing that we can get a win.” 

Russell has a full squad to pick from as he takes his Limerick side to the venue where he spent many years as a player and coach.

UCD v Athlone Town, Belfield Bowl, 7.45pm

UCD host Athlone Town in a huge game for both teams with the midlanders looking to close the gap at the bottom of the table.

After seeing his side outclassed for large portions of Friday's 3-2 defeat against St Patrick’s Athletic, UCD manager Aaron Callaghan realises the battle for survival both his side and Athlone face.

"St Pats were by far the better side for large portions of the game on Friday and we only really threatened late on,” said Callaghan.

“Both us and Athlone are in a similar situation with both of us fighting desperately against the drop. They brought a lot of players in during the window, which has made a real difference for them and has given them a huge lift."

Earlier in the season, the Students won 2-1 when the two sides met at the UCD Bowl, while Athlone won 2-0 in the match in Lissywollen.

Dean Clarke, Tomas Boyle and Mark Langtry will continue to miss out for the Students, while Gareth Matthews is a major doubt after he picked up a neck injury in Friday night’s game.

Athlone will be boosted by taking a point off Shamrock Rovers on Friday night when a late goal saw them claim a 1-1 draw at Lissywollen.

Manager Keith Long will serve the second of a two-match touchline ban for a game in which victory would see the gap to 11th reduced to just two points.

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