Sligo boss Baraclough bullish as they bid to shrug off Saints

Sligo Rovers are hoping to extend their three-point lead at the top of the Airtricity Premier Division when they play host the only other unbeaten side in the division, St Patrick’s Athletic at the Showgrounds tonight (7.05pm).

It’s a clash of the two teams with the best defensive record in the league, Sligo having conceded just four goals and St Pat’s three in the eight games to date.

“These are the sort of games you want your club to be involved in — it could be very tight as both teams have such good defensive records,” said Rovers boss, Ian Baraclough.

Sligo defender Alan Keane is doubtful but set to return to the squad is the influential Jason McGuinness after injury. St Pat’s boss Liam Buckley will give a late fitness test to Stephen O’Flynn.

Champions Shamrock Rovers are hoping to stay in touch with Sligo when they play host to Derry City at Tallaght Stadium (8pm). This will be the third meeting of the sides in the past 12 days — Derry triumphing 3-2 on aggregate over two legs in the Setanta Sports Cup semi-final.

“There is nothing wrong with our goalscoring record in the league with 21 in eight games, but we must tighten things up at the back,” said Hoops boss Stephen Kenny.

With Ciarán Kilduff and Stephen O’Donnell ruled out, Kenny will give a late fitness test to winger Killian Brennan. Derry boss Declan Devine must again rely on a number of young players with Rory Patterson and Steward Greacen both injured and Kevin Deery, Shane McEleney and Owen Morrison doubtful.

Third-placed Drogheda United have been the surprise team of the season and manager Mick Cooke will hope to continue their winning ways when they take on UCD at the Belfield Bowl (7.45pm). College have central defender Mick Leahy back from injury but there will be late fitness tests for Ger Barron, Chris Mulhall and Tomas Boyle.

Cork City will be looking for their first away points of the season when they travel to Tolka Park to take on Shelbourne (8pm).

“It was a kick in the teeth to concede a late goal in the 1-0 defeat to Sligo at Turner’s Cross last week,” said Cork boss Tommy Dunne.

“But we can take positives out of the performance as we created more clear-cut chances that did Sligo on the night.”

Cork have John Dunleavy out for two weeks with a knee ligament injury while there will be late fitness tests for Gearóid Morrisey (back), Shane O’Connor (foot) and Jamie Murphy (ankle). Shels will be minus suspended defender Stephen Paisley.

After their first win of the season, away to Bohemians, Monaghan boss Roddy Collins will be hoping to build on that 2-1 victory when fellow strugglers Bray Wanderers are the visitors to Gortakeegan (8pm).

Monaghan have goalkeeper Chris Bennion suspended after being red-carded after three minutes in that win over Bohs. Michael Schlugermann is the automatic replacement.

Bray did well in their last outing when taking a point off Shamrock Rovers in last week’s 2-2 draw at the Carlisle Grounds.

Dundalk have defender Chris Shields suspended for the visit of Bohemians to Oriel Park (7.45pm). Also missing will be the injured Derek Foran and Liam Burns. Bohemians will be without the injured Karl Moore and Derek Pender although Dwayne Wilson is likely to return.

* The Setanta Sports Cup final between Crusaders and Derry City will take place at the Oval, Belfast, on Saturday, May 12 (kick-off 4pm).

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