Sligo Rovers -v- Drogheda UnitedSat, Aug 04 2012
The Bit O’Red were fancied to do well pre-season, maybe not as well as they have done, but then again, neither were their opponents, Drogheda United.
Sligo top the table and they can take a stranglehold on the league with a win, a gap of four points along with a game in hand with less than a third of the season to go could be crucial. This is also the first in a two-parter with the Boynesiders this weekend, they face Drogheda at Hunky Dorys Park on Monday afternoon in the EA Sports Cup.
This will be the first league match for Sligo in two weeks, in the intervening time they were eliminated from the Europa League by Spartak Trnava and as such another important clash with St Pats was postponed but to the Dublin’s side progression in the same competition.
Sligo Rovers have already put Drogheda to the sword once this season, they came away from Hunky Dorys Park with a comprehensive 3-1 win earlier in the season.
Ian Baraclough’s side was dealt a blow with the loss of Danny North for the rest of the season, but something that has been overlooked is the fact that North hasn’t been as prolific a scorer as in previous seasons. However it will require a big effort from Mark Quigley and Joseph N’Do to really make an impact.
Speaking ahead of the game, Ian Baraclough said “We know that if we keep on winning our games then we will have no concerns about what other teams do. They are on a great run, Mick Cooke has done a marvellous job and they will come here with thoughts of coming away with three points. It is up to us to cope with that and it’ll be tough but we’ve prepared very well this week and we’re looking forward to the challenge.”
The Sligo manager did point to the recent games and the effect they have had on the team, but he believes that his side are professional enough to put recent disappointments behind them.
“I think in the two matches with Trnava and Cork we had some emotionally and physically exhausting experiences and it was probably a good thing we didn’t have a game last weekend. It was a disappointment but we’re ready to put our focus back on the league.”
Apart from the loss of North, Baraclough has to only contend with how to replace Danny Ventre who is suspended for the game. The Sligo boss has a fully fit squad.
Second in the table and vying for a cup semi-final, all that stands in the way of one of the best weekend’s in the clubs history since 2007 are Sligo Rovers.
No-one has rhyme nor reason for Drogheda’s extraordinary run so far this season, the Boynesiders have won five on the bounce and have one of the best away records in the league, however the vast majority of people feel that run will end and this could be a game too far for Drogheda.
The Boynesiders narrowly beat UCD last week, but for the entire final 30 minutes they were under the cosh and had the Students a bit more attacking capability they could have ended that run, but Drogheda seem to be getting the breaks which go with being towards the top of the table.
They travel to the Showgrounds with Mick Cooke in buoyant mood, “We all know what's at stake tomorrow night, both sides do, so we won't be going there expecting anything less than a tough match. But, also, we won't be going there with any fear. We have recorded some good wins on the road this season and we won't fear any team away from home.”
That away form has propelled Drogheda to within touching distance of the summit, they won three road games in a row, beating St Pats, Shels and Derry City in the space of those three weeks.
While Sligo have had a slightly extended break, Drogheda are showing signs of fatigue and although Mick Cooke has a squad of 22 to pick from there may be a little more depth required if his side are going to continue their challenge.
Gavin Brennan returns to the Drogheda team and will be a welcome addition, his creativity was missing last week, his brother Ryan has also served his suspension and will be once again available for selection.
The Drogheda manager has no injury worries, but several selection headaches which will please rather than annoy Cooke.
Referee: Padraigh Sutton
Sligo Rovers have kept only one clean sheet in their last seven games while Drogheda have kept three in their last four games.
The Boynesiders have had the best run of any of the clubs so far this season
Declan O’Brien netted his 100th goal for Drogheda United last week
Sligo have scored in the last ten minutes in three of their last five competitive games, with Mark Quigley getting two of those goals.
Sligo Rovers 8/11, Draw 12/5, Drogheda United 15/4
With a rest and the fact they are not playing catch up I expect Sligo to sneak this 1-0
Sligo Injury News: Danny North
Sligo Suspension News: Danny Ventre
Drogheda United Injury News: None
Drogheda United Suspension News: None
P.J. generally covers Drogheda games at HD Park and can generally be found at any Dublin ground when of a loose end on a Friday night.