Rovers keen to take double to move to second spot

SHAMROCK ROVERS will crank up their pursuit of Eircom League leaders Bohemians this weekend when matches against Bray Wanderers and Derry City will give them the chance to move to second in the table.

Rovers are the in-form team, with six wins and a draw from their last seven matches.

The good news for manager Liam Buckley is that all of his players, except full-back Richie Byrne, reported fit for tonight’s game against Bray at the Carlisle Grounds (7.45pm).

Byrne is struggling to shake off a calf injury, but there was good news from striker Tony Grant and full-back Greg Costello, as both are fit.

“We are facing into two very important games” Buckley said, “we have put ourselves into a challenging position by good football and a capacity for hard work, and we have not gone this far to surrender our chances now.

“We know Bray will be dangerous, they are bottom of the league and in serious need of points, and they will take them wherever they can get them. That should be a warning to us, and before we think about Derry, we must apply all our energy to overcoming Bray.”

Bray manager Pat Devlin has had more casualties this season than you would find in a hospital ward, and again, he must plan without Eddie Gormley, Thomas Morgan and Maurice Farrell. But centre-back Jody Lynch will be fit to play and striker Jason Byrne is also hopeful of passing a fitness test.

Devlin said: “We need to start putting points on the board if we are to get out of the relegation zone and we need to do it fast.

“Some of our younger players like John Flood and Eamon Zayed have picked up invaluable experience because others have been missing, and with more experienced players becoming available, I think we are ready to make a recovery.”

Bohemians suffered a blow to their pride in losing to Shelbourne last week, their first defeat in 16 games, but they acknowledge that their visit to Drogheda United this weekend is a potential banana skin.

Drogheda have run into financial trouble with their professional staff, but they have won five of their eight home games and will look upon the visit of the leaders as a heaven-sent chance to prove their potential.

Midfielder Stuart Taylor will return from injury to strengthen the hand of manager Harry McCue, and centre-forward Derek Delaney is available again after a back injury.

Drogheda need a lift after losing to Shamrock Rovers and UCD, but McCue will have a task on his hands to lift morale if the players are conscious of cash-flow problems.

Bohs have defenders Colin Hawkins and Paul McNally working to shake off injuries and Derek Coughlan is standing by to deputise if necessary.

Derry City can still have a huge bearing on the final positions and, with 11 games to play, they are not without hope of adding to the Cup trophy already in their safe-keeping.

They can make huge strides in this regard if they overcome Shelbourne tonight at Tolka Park and Shamrock Rovers on Monday at Richmond Park.

The experienced Peter Hutton is ready to return for Derry after a bout of ’flu, and Garry Beckett is on standby to return to the attack after recovering from a knee injury.

The departure of former international David Kelly has relaunched Beckett’s career, and he is likely to be joined in attack by winger Gareth McGlynn.

Shels will be without centre-backs Tony McCarthy and Barry Prenderville because of injury, and Kevin Doherty and Jim Gannon will continue to fill these vital positions in an unchanged team from that which beat Bohs.

Tonight’s fixtures:

Eircom League, Premier Division: Bray Wanderers v Shamrock Rovers, Carlisle Grounds 7.45pm; Drogheda United v Bohemians, O2 Park 8pm; St Patrick’s Athletic v UCD, Richmond Park 7.45pm; Shelbourne v Derry City, Tolka Park 7.45pm.

First Division: Athlone Town v Waterford United, St Mel’s Park 7.45pm.

Tomorrow:

Premier division: Cork City v Longford Town, Turner’s Cross, 7pm.

First Division: Cobh Ramblers v Finn Harps, St Colman’s Park, 7.45pm; Kilkenny City v Galway United, Buckley Park, TBA; Sligo Rovers v Monaghan United, Showgrounds, 7.45pm.

Sunday:

Dublin City v Dundalk, Whitehall, 2pm; Limerick v Kildare County, Jackman Park, 2pm.

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