The Republic of Ireland U21s will have their sights set on back-to-back victories when they face Montenegro at the Podgorica City Stadium on Tuesday (kick-off 4.30pm Irish time).
Following a 2-0 victory against Luxembourg in Tallaght last Friday night, Jim Crawford's side will be hoping for similar fortune in their fourth game of the European Championship qualifiers.
While the two points dropped in an away meeting with Luxembourg on September 7th was a setback at the time, Ireland remain in the hunt for the top-two spots in Group F.
At the moment, Sweden find themselves at the summit of the table with Italy a single point behind them. However, the current frontrunners will also be facing off on Tuesday at Stadio Brianteo in Monza and this could potentially work to the benefit of Ireland as a result.
The boys in green are presently three points adrift of the Swedes with a game less played and two points in arrears of the Italians with the same number played. A win over the Montenegrins could well see Ireland bolstering their qualification credentials, with a further 18 points still to play for once the dust settles on this evening’s clash.
As he looks to guide his charges towards a third victory in four, Crawford has been handed a timely boost. Given Montenegro had been included on their coronavirus travelling red lists, the former Bohemians and Shelbourne midfielder faced the prospect of being without his UK and German-based players for the trip to Podgorica.
It came as a relief therefore – to both Crawford and the affected players – when a decision was made in recent days to relax travel restrictions to Montenegro.
This ensures the Irish boss's resources won't be severely limited, though he will be without five players from the group he originally selected for this international window. Tyreik Wright – who started in attack the last day – is ruled out after picking up a knock, while Sam Blair, Kameron Ledwidge, Oisin McEntee and Louie Watson have also returned to their respective clubs.
Although it is no longer necessary for Crawford to pick an entirely home-based selection, eight domestic players – covering both the League of Ireland and the Irish Premiership – have been added for the trip to the Montenegrin capital.
Having played a big part in their success over Luxembourg, Wright's presence will be missed in their latest group game. Nevertheless, Joshua Kayode and Conor Coventry are set to feature after rattling the net on home soil just four days ago.
Coventry (currently on loan at Peterborough United from West Ham United) has two goals to date in the campaign and has been forging an effective partnership in midfield with Bournemouth’s Gavin Kilkenny.
Even if Wright’s absence will force his hand, Crawford isn’t afraid to alternate his starting line-up having made four changes for both of the Luxembourg games. With 29 players in the squad for this fixture, there is every chance he will opt to freshen up his side again.