Defeat to Dundalk last Monday was Athlone’s ninth on the spin equalling the worst start to a League of Ireland (top division) season in 71 years.
“It’s a huge ask to go to Richmond Park and get a result but we’re well capable of doing it,” said an upbeat Cooke. “No-one gave us a chance against Dundalk on Monday, but we were excellent despite missing a number of players and anyone there will tell you we deserved at least a point.”
Injured defenders Aidan Collins and Neil Harney are joined on the Athlone sidelines by the suspended Sean Byrne, though Paul Skinner, Derek Prendergast and Alan Byrne return from bans.
Pat’s remain without Ken Oman, who has a back injury, but have Kenny Browne back from suspension as they go for a fifth straight league win.
Suspension and a hamstring injury, respectively, mean Darren Dennehy and Darren Murphy are out of leaders’ Cork City’s line-up for the visit of struggling Bohemians to Turner’s Cross. Strikers Michael Rafter and Danny Morrissey also remain out.
City boss John Caulfield hopes to have veteran midfielder Colin Healy back while full-back Brian Lenihan faces a fitness check.
Jason Byrne starts up front for Bohs in the continued absence of Dinny Corcoran who remains out along with Jack Memery and Anto Murphy.
Shamrock Rovers welcome captain Conor Kenna back to central defence following suspension for the trip to Drogheda United, though winger Sean O’Connor (hamstring) and striker Dean Kelly (calf) won’t travel. Drogs will be without keeper Michéal Schlingermann, Austin McCann and Eric Foley.
Sligo Rovers are likely to be unchanged for their trip to Thomond Park to take on Limerick as both Gavin Peers and Raffaele Cretaro, out long-term, are their only absentees.
Limerick central defender Mick Leahy suffered a setback with his groin injury and remains out, along with winger Danny Galbraith. Striker Craig Curran hopes to pass a fitness test. Patrick Nzuzi returns from a ban.
Derry City boss Roddy Collins is again unlikely to start Rory Patterson, the top scorer in the league last season, after criticising the striker’s work rate.
Danny Ventre does return to Derry’s midfield for the visit of UCD, but Barry Molloy and Barry McNamee are out injured. Defender Ian Ryan, winger Ayman Ben Mohammed and striker Dean Clarke are out injured for UCD while midfielder Robbie Creevy is a doubt. Central defender Tomas Boyle returns following suspension.
Bray v Dundalk; Cork City v Bohs; Derry City v UCD; Drogheda Utd v Shamrock Rovers; Limerick v Sligo Rovers; St Pat’s v Athlone Town
Waterford v Finn Harps; Wexford v Shels (8pm).