Second from bottom Galway United host fourth-placed Derry City at Eamonn Deacy Park on Friday night in a vital game for both sides (kick-off 7.45pm).
An under-par United performance last week saw the Tribesmen knocked out of the FAI Cup by Limerick at the quarter-final stage.
Limerick's Rodrigo Tosi and Shane Duggan both netted within the first twenty minutes of the second half. Padraig Cunningham netted with ten minutes left for the Galwegians in what turned out was a consolation goal.
Shane Keegan’s side now have six remaining league games, four of which are at Eamonn Deacy Park, to secure the club’s Premier Division status for 2018.
Keegan wants to put the disappointment of the Cup exit to one side when Kenny Shiels’ Derry City visit the west and he’s hoping to see a response from his players.
“It’s two teams with a massive motivation, for very different reasons. Derry City have had two heavy defeats against Dundalk but there is no doubt that they’re one of the best sides in the country.
“When you consider they’re not operating on a par with the bigger clubs, Kenny Shiels has Derry City right up there and he’s doing a fantastic job, playing good football too. We know it will be a difficult game.”
Reflecting on the Limerick game, he told his club’s official website that his charges simply didn’t perform on the night.
“After last weeks Cup exit, we have to see a response, we didn’t get anywhere near the level required. I don’t think Limerick were much better, both sides were poor on the night, but we were off the pace. I think it’s arguably our poorest home performance of the year.
“We’ve spoken about it in the build up to the Derry game, our home support has been very good. We’re heading into a crucial period. We delivered a below par performance when we needed to most.
“I'd hope our supporters will allow us that. That’s not the standard we want to be playing at and we’ll give them a lot more than last Friday for this game.”
The ex-Wexford Youths boss also has his eye on October's games and knows every remaining result is absolutely vital to staying up.
“The four games in October needs to be where our season is decided, not (just) the games against Derry City and Sligo Rovers in September.”
Galway come into this game with a clean bill of health, as well as no doubts or suspensions.
Fourth-placed Derry City come into this game not having played competitively in 26 days. The last time they played they succumbed to a 4-0 home defeat to Dundalk. Their last schedule game in the league at the beginning of this month against Drogheda United,was postponed due to international call-ups.
Since then, they’ve played three friendlies, all in the space of 13 days. Firstly, a 2-2 draw with Bohemians at Dalymount occurred on the FAI Cup second round weekend as Bohs were also knocked out in the first round.
Two charitable games followed, a 4-2 home win versus Northern Irish club Institute was played to raise funds for the latter’s severely damaged pitch due to flooding.
On 8 September, they played a North-West derby against Finn Harps on the Cup quarter-final weekend in order to raise funds for the county of Donegal after their extreme floods. A 1-1 draw was played out at Maginn Park (see here).
Their last away game in the league was a 2-0 win in Tallaght Stadium against fellow Europe-chasing Shamrock Rovers on 4 August.
After being eliminated from the Cup by Dundalk off the back the same scoreline as the previously mentioned league game, confidence is not sky high right now in the Candystripe's camp.
Their inactivity competitively these last few weeks could well be the difference on Friday night.
On a positive note, if the Candystripes win against Galway they’ll leapfrog Rovers by two points after the same number of games played.
They can also play with no pressure, knowing they won’t have to match the Hoops' scoreline on the night in the race for Europe. This is because the Hoops play Dundalk in the EA Sports cup final on Saturday.
Kenny Shiels' combative midfielder Aaron McEneff will have to sit in the stands in Eamonn Deacy Park after he accumulated five yellow cards.
Referee: Ray Matthews
Galway's Ronan Murray, who won the SSE Airtricity / Soccer Writer’s Association Player of the Month for August, is the club’s top scorer on 14 in all competitions.
In the three meetings between the pair this season, they’ve both won one apiece.
Galway hosted Derry to a 0-0 draw on May 8th, as well as winning the EA Sports cup second round tie 2-0 in April.
Derry hosted Galway in the return league fixture on June 2nd, winning 2-1 thanks to Ronan Curtis and Nathan Boyle. Gary Shanahan netted for Galway.
Galway's last five games in all competitions LDWLD and Derry's last five games in all competitions LLWWW.
Galway United 23/10; Draw 5/2; Derry City 11/10
Galway United 1-1 Derry City
Suspended: Aaron McEneff