Pats boss McDonnell wary of suffering UCD backlash

ST PATRICK’S Athletic defend a six-point lead at the top of the eircom League Premier Division when they host UCD at Richmond Park tonight (all kick offs 7.45pm except where indicated).

Pats have recently managed to make light of an extensive injury list, especially in defence, the latest addition to their walking wounded being Damien Lynch who was forced off with a hamstring problem in last Sunday’s 3-2 victory over Cork City.

His replacement in that game, Noel Haverty, is expected to retain his place tonight while Joseph N’do, Joe O’ Cearuill, Jamie Harris and David Partridge all remain out of action. However, one bit of good news for manager John McDonnell is that Glen Fitzpatrick returns to the squad.

“UCD have been unlucky in recent matches with a number of decisions not going their way but they are a good footballing side as we saw in the League Cup,” McDonnell said. “We will have to be on our toes especially as we are currently nursing a good few injuries.”

UCD manager Pete Mahon, sent to the line for protesting the penalty decision awarded against his team in their last league outing against Bohemians, will be hoping for better luck tonight and expects defenders Brian Shortall (ankle) and Alan Mahon (hip) to be fit for the fray.

“It’s a big game but no bigger than last week,” he said. “I’m just hoping that we play well, if we do we have a chance.”

With second-placed Bohemians not playing at Cobh Ramblers until tomorrow, Drogheda United and Derry City both have a chance to overtake them this evening. The Boynesiders look to have the tougher task away to form side Bray Wanderers whose Paddy Kavanagh has been named the eircom/Soccer Writers Player Of The Month, a reward for his three-goal haul as Bray took ten points from a possible twelve during April.

Although a few players are bothered by minor knocks, Bray manager Eddie Gormley expects to have a full squad available for the game, while Drogheda boss Paul Doolin hopes that Joe Kendrick, Paul Keegan and Jason Gavin will all be available for the Boynesiders.

“Bray have done brilliantly so of course it will be a tough match,” said Doolin. “We’ll have to be at our best to beat them but we need to keep picking up points and closing that gap at the top.”

Derry City, looking to pull out of a dip in form, face Shamrock Rovers, who have themselves hit an early season slump, at Tolka Park (kick off 8pm). Derry, who have lately struggled in front of goal, are without the injured Sean Hargan, Darren Quigley, Eugene Ferry, Ciaran Martyn and Sammy Morrow, although the last-named has had positive feedback on his injury and is expected to resume training shortly.

For Rovers, Chris Mulhall (cartilage), Darren Stapleton (thigh) and John Martin (hip) remain sidelined and have been joined by Robbie Creevy and the suspended Pat Flynn. Danny O’Connor faces a fitness test.

Without a win in five games, including this week’s League Cup exit at the hands of Bray, the Hoops are badly in need of a lift.

“It’s a really bad time for us,” manager Pat Scully acknowledged, “but we have good players, very good players. We’re going through a bad patch and we are determined to see it out. We accept the challenge and relish it. We’ve never experienced anything like this before and when it’s over we will be stronger.”

Turner’s Cross plays host to an important mid-table clash as Cork City take on Sligo Rovers. For the visitors it’s a litmus test of their current fine form while, for Cork, two points behind The Bit O’ Red, a win is badly needed to restore momentum to their title challenge.

Danny Murphy is out for Cork following his red card against Pats but Joe Gamble returns having served his suspension for the sending off against Drogheda.

City manager Alan Mathews, disappointed that his side lost out to Pats having come back from two goals down, is looking for a positive response.

“Sligo come to Turner’s Cross on the back of an excellent run of form,” he notes, “so we need to put our disappointment behind us and bounce back this evening.”

Sligo’s only upset recently was the loss on penalties in the League Cup to Galway who are tonight involved in a basement clash with Finn Harps at Terryland Park.

Buoyed by a clean sheet on their last league outing in Derry, new Galway manager Jeff Kenna is now anxious that the Tribesmen, marooned at the bottom of the table, go one better against a struggling Harps side who are four points above them.

“We’ve had some decent results in the last couple of games,” says Kenna, “so we are looking to build on that success.”

The Donegal side will again be without the injured Gary Beckett and Jonathan Minnock as they seek to put an end to a seven-game losing streak during which they have also failed to register a goal.

l The FAI have announced that Monday’s draw for the third round of the FAI Ford Cup will be conducted by new Irish boss Giovanni Trapattoni and will be broadcast live on RTÉ’s Monday Night Soccer.

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