Rovers braced for tough test at Drogs

CHAMPIONS Shamrock Rovers will be hoping to stretch their three-point lead at the top of Airtricity Premier Division when they take on basement side Drogheda United at Hunky Dory Park.

Hoops manager Michael O’Neill has warned the fans that even though Drogheda have picked up just one point from four games, he is expecting a tough outing for his side as they bid to maintain their six-match unbeaten run in competitive games this season.

“Drogheda got a good result when they defeated Bray Wanderers 1-0 in the EA Sports Cup at the Carlisle Grounds on Monday night — a match I watched carefully. But I am confident we can do what we need to do and get a result,” said O’Neill.

Rovers will again be without injured central defender Craig Sives (hamstring) while both Chris Turner and Stephen O’Donnell will have late fitness tests.

New Drogheda boss Mick Cooke is likely to rely on the panel that recorded that shock 1-0 win in Bray on Monday.

St Patrick’s Athletic have a number of injury problems as they prepare for tonight’s Dublin derby against second-placed Bohemians at Richmond Park. Central defenders Colm Kenna and Brian Shortall are ruled out with knee and ankle injuries respectively.

But back in contention for places in the squad are Daryl Kavanagh, Ian Darcy and Paul Crowley.

Assistant St Pat’s boss John Gill was boosted by his team’s 3-2 home win over Dundalk last Friday.

“It was a great second half performance as were 2-0 down with half and hour to go. Boss Pete Mahon has always had a never-say-die attitude and we saw that against Dundalk,” said Gill.

Bohemians board of directors are in “ongoing talks” with boss Pat Fenlon on his future at the club. Fenlon will take charge of the club for tonight’s ‘must win’ game for both teams.

Anto Flood will have a late fitness test while Ger O’Brien returns after suspension while Christy Fagan has recovered from a hamstring problem.

“It has been a difficult week for all. But the players will be up for this derby game — they know if they don’t perform, they will be well beaten,” said Fenlon.

Galway United, with their first win of the season against Bohemians at Dalymount Park last week, will be hoping to build on that performance when they play host to Sligo Rovers at Terryland Park.

Missing will be injured midfielder Gary Curran while Steve Feeney faces a late fitness test. Skipper Paul Sinnott points out it is the first Connacht derby of the season and Sligo have not won a league game at Terryland in four seasons. Sligo will again be without influential midfielder Joseph Ndo with a foot injury. But he could be back for Monday’s Setanta Cup semi-final, second leg away to Portadown with Paul Cook’s side holding a 3-0 lead from the first leg.

Dundalk will be hoping to get back on track after that 3-2 reversal against St Pat’s when the young UCD side make the journey to Oriel Park. Manager Ian Foster says his team will have “the bit between their teeth” after “letting people down last week”.

He said: “Even though UCD have had a big change in personnel this season, they always try to play football. We must bounce back quickly to put us in the mood for the Setanta Cup semi-final, first leg against Cliftonville in Belfast on Monday.’’

Ruled out by injuries are Greg Bolger, Stephen Maher and Eoghan Osborne but Shane Guthrie returns to the panel after being ineligible for the St Pat’s tie. College showed signs of improvement with an EA Sports Cup 3-2 victory away to Longford Town on Monday and manager Martin Russell will stick to the same panel although defender Sean Harding is still recovering from an ankle injury.

Bray Wanderers, one of three clubs in joint second place on points, will be hoping to continue their promising start when Derry City are the visitors to the Carlisle Grounds.

Defender Dave Webster misses out with a one-match ban while Gary Shaw is absent with a toe injury. Defenders Daire Doyle and Joe Kendrick will have late fitness tests.

“We had a great 1-0 away win against UCD in difficult conditions last week — hopefully we can keep our three-match unbeaten league record going,” said boss Pat Devlin. Derry are without injured Barry Molloy and Stewart Greachen but Ruadhri Higgins has recovered from a thigh strain.

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