By Ed Leahy
League champions Sligo Rovers travel to Dalymount Park for tonight’s Airtricity League Premier Division clash with Bohemians, kick-off 7:05pm.
The Phibsboro clash is Sligo’s first trip to Dublin this season and they will be confident of maintaining their 100 per cent start to the season after picking up seven points from the three games with Bohemians last season.
But Ian Barraclough’s side may not have it all their own way at the Dublin venue as they will have to battle against a very well-organised and hard-working Bohs side, as well as a pitch that is far from conducive to the free-flowing football that the visitors will endeavour to pursue.
The normally carpet-like Dalymount pitch was in a shocking state for the clash with Shamrock Rovers on 18 March and the weather has actually been worse since that clash so the long studs may be needed for tonight’s encounter.
With four wins from four, Sligo have already made their intentions clear as they attempt to defend their title, and they have opened up a four-point gap at the top of the table.
And it could be argued that Baraclough’s side have yet to hit top gear, which is a dangerous sign to the rest of the league as the champions are winning matches without playing well.
But the Bit O'Red are well able to mix it in difficult conditions and should still have enough to overcome tonight’s hosts who are just lacking the class to compete at the top level.
Danny North and Joseph Ndo remain out with knee and hand injuries respectively for the visitors, while Danny Ventre is still recovering from a leg injury.
Gavin Peers should come back into the starting eleven after missing out on last week’s win over Limerick and it will be interesting to see who the manager drops after Jeff Henderson scored the winner last week.
Bohemians will be anxious to get back in action after their last league game against St Patrick’s Athletic fell foul to the bad weather in the capital over the past seven days.
In fact, the Gypsies haven’t played since that 0-0 draw with Shamrock Rovers almost two weeks ago and manager Aaron Callaghan will be hoping his side can replicate the performance and the result against the unbeaten champions.
Callaghan said: “Sligo have had a great run in the league and they have had a good Setanta Cup so far but we’re looking for a result."
New Gypsies signing Stephen Paisley is fit and available for selection but it might be a surprise to see Callaghan change his back four as they have looked a very competent unit with Owen Heary in the central role.
And Roberto Lopes has also stepped up to the challenge of filling the void since the departure of Evan McMillen, while Dave Mulcahy should add a bit of steel to the midfield as he returns after missing the Rovers clash.
However, Chris Lyons remains out for Bohemians after hurting his ankle against the Hoops, while Shane Fitzgerald has returned to training after an ankle injury.
While the Gypsies competed with Shamrock Rovers in their last home game, they played the majority of the game against 10 men and with the form Sligo have shown so far this season, there can only really be one winner tonight. It might be the pitch but it should be the league champions.
Verdict Sligo Rovers
Live television coverage of Bohemians v Sligo Rovers from 7pm on RTÉ Two and RTE.ie (Worldwide excluding GB & NI). Highlights and analysis of all the weekend’s action on MNS from 7pm on Monday 1 April on RTÉ Two and RTE.ie (Worldwide).