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Pete Mahon's Drogheda United will do everything in their power to cause an upset when they host league leaders Cork City at United Park on Friday (kick-off 7.45pm).
Last week, the Drogs suffered their 16th league defeat of the season as they lost 1-0 at home to fellow relegation candidates St. Patrick’s Athletic thanks to a concession of a 14th minute Christy Fagan strike.
The defeat left the Boynesiders eight points adrift of safety with nine games left leaving Mahon searching for positives when discussing the game.
“I thought we were much better in the second-half,” Mahon acknowledged on Wednesday evening to the club’s official website.
“We were a little flat to begin with but I thought we really brought the game to St Pat’s after the break and were unfortunate not to get a point. How we ended the game reminded me of the type of performances we put in last year.
“Training has been much sharper and more positive over the past couple of weeks and we need to make sure that last Friday was the minimum performance level we expect for the rest of the season.”
Friday night’s opponents have won both games against Drogheda so far this season and Mahon is expecting to come up against a wounded animal on Friday, considering the Leesiders lost their unbeaten tag in the league to Bohemians on Monday night.
“The result earlier in the week does us no favours. Cork will be coming here with a point to prove and will obviously be looking to wrap up the league title as soon as possible.
Speaking on his teams current plight, Mahon said: “We know that games are running out for ourselves. The other teams around us have not only strengthened in the transfer window but also picked up results over the last few weeks.
“It’s a very important game for ourselves but Bohs have shown that anything can happen in this league. Hopefully with a little bit of luck from the footballing gods, we can cause an upset.”
Drogheda will be without the injured quartet of Gavin Brennan, Kevin Farragher, Ciaran McGuigan and Stephen Elliott, though Richie Purdy and Ryan Masterson will return to the first-team squad.
Drogheda really need results as soon as possible in order to possibly surviving the drop, so this game is vitally important.
The table toppers will be looking to bounce back from their first league defeat of the season, as they travel to face the bottom club on Friday night.
The Leesiders' unbeaten start to the season was finally ended on Monday night, as Bohemians recorded a 1-0 win at Turner’s Cross, thanks to Georgie Poynton's second-half penalty.
Their last away league game resulted in a 2-0 win at the Carlisle Grounds against Bray Wanderers.
City ran out convincing winners on both occasions when the sides played each other this season. A 4-1 win at United Park came first in the opening weeks of the season, before registering a 5-0 victory at Turner’s Cross in May.
Speaking to the media ahead of the game, John Caulfield said: “The players have been phenomenal all year and their attitude has been brilliant.
Discussing the Bohs loss, Caulfield said: “The other night, fair play to Bohs, they came with a game plan and they beat us and, over the 90 minutes, we didn’t do enough. That’s gone now, it’s done and dusted and you have to move on to your next game.
“Friday night becomes the game of the season for us now, because there are another huge three points on offer. We are going for the title and Drogheda are at the bottom, fighting to survive. They know a win will bring them back into the mix and I think that race will go all the way to the end.
“It’s a tight ground (United Park) and always a tricky venue; Pete Mahon and John Gill are two great guys who always have hard-working teams.”
Caulfield also touched on the tight relegation battle this year in his pre-match comments: “With three going down this year, it is really competitive. You look at the table and you wonder are there four teams involved in the battle, are there six? It means every game is massive and it has made sure that there are no easy games this year.
“Every game, you have to earn the right to get the points and that is a great place to be. In the past, there have been seasons where one or two teams have been cut adrift early on, but that hasn’t happened this year and I think there are still a lot of twists and turns to come.”
Caulfield will definitely be without long-term injury victim Johnny Dunleavy, while Stephen Dooley, Ryan Delaney, Alan Bennett and Jimmy Keohane have all had knocks and have will be assessed closer to kick-off.
This game will be their third without Sean Maguire and Kevin O’Connor, and with them being off colour in their recent games to Galway and Bohs, this match will be a chance to register an emphatic win to let the league know they’re still just as strong without the pair.
Referee: Robert Hennessey
Both sides have met each other competitively 59 times. Drogheda winning 12 of those and Cork winning 31 times. (Drog's last win over City was in the 2013 League Cup.)
There has been an average of 2.3 goals per game in this fixture over the years.
Last five games in the league: Drogheda United LLDLL and Cork City LWWWW
Drogheda United 16/1; Draw 6/1; Cork City 1/6
Drogheda United 0-2 Cork City
Injured: Gavin Brennan, Kevin Farragher, Ciaran McGuigan, Stephen Elliott
Injured: Jonny Dunleavy
Doubtful: Stephen Dooley, Ryan Delaney, Alan Bennett, Jimmy Keohane