Title hopefuls in crucial clash

 

AIRTRICITY LEAGUETONIGHT’S GAME between Drogheda United and St Patrick’s Athletic looks like being a final eliminator between the only two teams still in a position to mount a title challenge to Sligo Rovers. If it’s a draw, they’ll both be pretty much eliminated.

United have had just about the better of the games between the sides so far this season and the Dubliners have yet to beat their rivals over 90 minutes. However, they did put them out of the FAI Cup last week on penalties and their four straight wins in the league will provide confidence as they make the short journey north.

St Patrick’s have Chris Forrester back although John Russell looks set to miss out again with an ongoing ankle problem while Drogheda manager Mick Cooke loses Declan O’Brien from the team that lifted the League Cup last Saturday but welcomes back Michael Schlingermann, Michael Marks and John Sullivan, all of whom were cup-tied.

Shamrock Rovers’ Brian Laws has Conor Powell and Craig Sives back from suspension and says he will use the visit of Dundalk to “look at some different options”. Pat Sullivan is suspended and Graham Gartland still out injured. Dundalk are without Marc Griffin and Derek Foran, both of whom serve bans, while top scorer Gary Shanahan (thigh) is a doubt.

Whatever about things at the top of the table, the division’s form team are UCD who have won five of their last six games and might fancy making it six from seven against a Bohemians side they have yet to take a point from this season.

The students can partly thank the fact they are near full straight these days for their improvement but there is clearly more to it than that. In any case, they may have at least one problem tonight with Graham Rusk a doubt again after making his return last week. Their visitors have Keith Ward suspended, Derek Pender back from suspension and former UCD player Evan McMillan facing a late fitness test.

Bray Wanderers will have Eddie Gormley back in the dugout for the trip to Shelbourne with the club’s former manager having rejoined the coaching staff. Pat Devlin has a full squad to choose from while Alan Mathews will have Anto Murphy and Stephen Paisley suspended while leading goalscorers Philly Hughes and Philly Gorman are again doubts.

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