With only a point separating the sides, third placed Drogheda United welcome fifth placed Shelbourne to United Park on Friday night in the SSE Airtricity First Division (kick-off 7.45pm).
After suffering a 4-1 home defeat to Cabinteely, Drogheda United have bounced back in fine style registering three wins in a row in the First Division. Despite being 3-1 down after sixty minutes played against Athlone Town last week, the Louth side took all three points with a 5-3 victory.
Manager Tim Clancy was delighted with his team’s comeback and believed his side would have gotten back into the game regardless of Athlone Town dropping to ten men in the second-half.
“That seems to be the way we are going at the minute. We had a chance last week after 2 minutes with Stephen (Meaney), he’d a similar chance in Galway at 1-0, it’s probably too easy for him to finish it. He’s tried to put it right in the corner.
“Then the sucker punch and within a minute, we’re a goal down, giving away a silly free kick. They get themselves ahead. In the first half, they were having a lot of joy so we changed the formation at half time.
“Second half we changed a couple of things. Obviously they then lost their centre back, which helped us massively but I still thought, if they’d eleven on the pitch, we’d have got back in the game.”
Clancy is very aware that pre-season favourites for the title Shelbourne, will punish his team if they keep conceding in the manner they have and is hoping that his team has learned from previous weeks.
“I think before a ball was kicked, because of the signings they made. I think the bookies had them at 1-2 which is shorter odds than Limerick and Waterford when they went up when they had a lot of money.
“It shows what everyone thought it was when they got a squad together. It’s not as easy as grabbing a load of players and trying to go out and win it. They’ve got a target that every other team wants to beat them because of the investment they have and the players they’ve signed.
“They probably haven’t started as well as they would have wanted but we’re in the same boat ourselves. We haven’t got our strongest team on the pitch this season, which is frustrating for us because of injuries where we avoided injuries last year, now it’s going the other way.
“It’s going to be a very competitive game, we certainly can’t give up the goals we’ve been giving up. We can’t give Shels a 2-0 lead, they won’t conceded five in the second half, that’s for sure.
Drogheda United will be without Adam Wixted, who will need an operation. Janabi Amour is out with a groin strain and Chris Lyons has not recovered in time from a concussion. Thomas Byrne is doubtful to be fully fit for the clash.
Having beaten Bray Wanderers last week, Shelbourne manager Ian Morris is starting to feel his side is moving in the right direction and are starting to gel together.
“I think when you see what way we’ve playing, moving the ball really well and considering where it’s a really new team with three maybe four players max from last year’s starting eleven I think it’s all coming together
“With the squad and management, we’re starting to see what way we're going to do things. We’re dominating possession and the players are really enjoying themselves,” he said.
Morris is hoping the Reds fans travel in numbers up the M1 to Drogheda to support the team, which he felt was a huge motivation for the players in last week’s victory.
“Where we were in the dug out on Friday the fans were really loud and I think we gave them something to cheer about. The lads buzz off that and when it’s quiet, it's all about self-driving but the fans can give that extra bit of motivation,” he said.
“The mood is always going to be good when you’ve won with a clean sheet and the manner we did. First half we were excellent and we came under a small bit of pressure in the second half without them creating chances,” he said.
“We have to be at it every single game and it’s the same in United Park. We’ll be switched on, focused for the entire game,” he added.
Conan Byrne and Shane Farrell remain injured for the Reds who have no suspensions going into Friday’s game.
Referee: Michael Connolly
Shelbourne and Drogheda United first faced each other in the top flight of Irish football in the 1983/84 season. Shels lost 1-3 at home before drawing 2-2 in the away tie.
The biggest league victory Shels have had over Drogheda United was a 5-0 win in the 97/98 season. Drogheda have also put five past Shels – in a 2-5 win in the 80/81 season.
Drogheda have scored more goals than Shels this season (13 v 12) but have also conceded more (11 v 9).
Drogheda United 6/4; Draw 11/5; Shelbourne 8/5.
Injured: Adam Wixted, Janabi Amour, Chris Lyons
Doubtful: Thomas Byrne
Injured: Shane Farrell, Conan Byrne