Baraclough urges Bit O’Red to bounce back

Still holding maximum points in the league, but smarting from defeat by Drogheda United in the Setanta Cup, champions Sligo Rovers travel to Richmond Park to take on third-placed St Patrick’s Athletic in the big game of the night in the Airtricity Premier Division (kick-off 7:05pm, live on RTE 2).

Baraclough urges Bit O’Red  to bounce back

If the Bit O’Red are to claim a ninth successive league win, manager Ian Baraclough knows his side will have to quickly get rid of the unaccustomed taste of defeat. “We were always going to have that knock back and it came on Tuesday,” he reflects. “But we put that tie to one side now because it is back to the league in Richmond Park aiming for a positive result and to keep our tremendous league form so far this season going.”

For the visitors, Joseph Ndo is in contention, having returned to training, but Danny North (knee), Seamus Conneely (knee) and Ciarán Kelly (fractured sternum) miss out.

St Pats go into the game in good form, their latest victory a 4-0 thumping of Shelbourne.

“Yeah, Monday was a good win and a good performance,” says boss Liam Buckley. “We had three really tight and competitive games with Sligo last year that could have gone either way. I’d expect that to be the same this Friday. Sligo will bring a good crowd with them, but I know our support will turn up in big numbers as usual.”

Pats goalkeeper Brendan Clarke is set to have a late fitness test on a knee injury sustained in training while Shane McFaul is expected to be available for selection having recovered from a groin strain.

Second-placed Derry City host Shamrock Rovers at the Brandywell (7.45pm) with Candystripes manager Declan Devine happy to be home for a change.

“It’s going to be great to get back to the Brandywell after the last number of weeks on the road,” he says. “We have been on a good run of form so it’s about time that our home fans got to see the football we have been playing.”

Derry will be without Stewart Greacen, Sean Houston and Kevin Deery due to injury, while Shame McEleney will miss out through suspension after his sending of in Dundalk.

Rovers will be without Ken Oman, who picked up an ankle injury in Tuesday night’s Setanta Sports Cup game against Cork City while Jason McGuinness’ progress back to fitness has been stalled and he will remain out for this evening’s game.

After that Setanta semi-final draw in Tallaght, both Rovers boss Trevor Croly and Cork City manager Tommy Dunne were in agreement the heavy fixture schedule is posing clubs a real challenge.

“We’re training on the bus,” is how Dunne puts it. “The boys will have two days off for the whole of April. What we’ll do is game, recovery, play, game, recovery, get ready to play, game. That’s the way it’s going to be for the next four weeks. That’s why we’re delighted with the pre-season we had under our belt: it helps us to be able to keep going. But everybody has to do it. Why can’t they just lengthen the season? Start earlier or finish later. It’s not like the weather is going to change.”

City’s injury crisis has eased somewhat ahead of the visit of Shelbourne to Turner’s Cross tonight (7.45pm) with Shane Duggan likely to be available, Gearóid Morrissey back from suspension and Danny Murphy, Colin Healy and Neal Horgan all in line to start. Rock-bottom Shels will be at full-strength, barring long-term injury absentee Glenn Cronin.

Other fixtures (7.45pm unless stated): Premier Division: Bohemians v Dundalk, Dalymount Park; Drogheda United v UCD, Hunky Dorys Park. First Division: Mervue United v Wexford Youths, Fahy’s Field; Waterford United v Cobh Ramblers, RSC; Finn Harps v Salthill Devon, Finn Park, 8pm.

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