Harps, still struggling to keep their heads above the relegation zone, went down 3-1 at home to Drogheda in their last outing and have a number of injury worries going into what manager Paul Hegarty admits is “the toughest fixture of the weekend.”
Jonathan Minnock and Stephen Parkhouse are both doubtful while Neil McCafferty is suspended having been red-carded against Drogheda.
But Hegarty hopes his side will be inspired rather than intimidated by the visit to the home of the champions-elect.
“Bohs are flying,” he says, “but it’s a big game for us and the players should not be intimidated by that. It’s something that is certainly worth looking forward to.”
Bohemians, 16 points clear of nearest rivals St Patrick’s Athletic – and with a game in hand to boot – could wrap up the title by winning four of their remaining eight games but, ahead of tonight’s match in particular, manager Pat Fenlon is anxious to avoid any hint of complacency.
“Harps will still be looking over their shoulder at the relegation zone,” he observes. “They are still fighting for survival and, as a result, I think this will be a very tough game for us.”
Only Mark Rossiter, suffering from a groin strain, is a doubt for a Bohs side who continue to go from strength to strength but, again, Fenlon preaches total concentration when he says: “We have got to do the hard work before we start thinking about the win.”
With the title effectively beyond them, Pat’s must recover from their prodigious efforts in the UEFA Cup away to Hertha Berlin if they are to keep their noses in front of Derry in the race for second.
One point clear of the Candystripes, and with a game in hand, Johnny McDonnell’s men travel to the Carlisle Grounds to take on Bray Wanderers (7.45). The home side, smarting from their loss to Galway United in the FAI Ford Cup quarter-final, at least have a clean bill of health for this evening’s game, with only long-term injury victim Ronan Ivory missing.
“I was very disappointed with Tuesday night’s performance (against Galway) and people will have to up their game against Pat’s,” says manager Eddie Gormley.
Derry, meanwhile, are poised to take advantage of any slip-up by the Inchicore side, when they host champions Drogheda United at the Brandywell (7.45, live on TG4).
For the home side, Clive Delaney is suspended and Peter Hutton has a groin problem while Drogheda will be without skipper Declan O’Brien (hamstring) and Guy Bates (shoulder).
In tonight’s other games, UCD, currently four points from safety, will be looking to make up ground on Harps when they host mid-table Sligo Rovers at the Carlisle Grounds (7.45), while Galway United, although still rooted to the bottom of the table, will have been boosted by their cup exploits when they host Shamrock Rovers at Terryland Park (7.45).