Shamrock Rovers’ hopes of successfully defending their league title suffered a potentially fatal blow on Friday night when a 2-2 draw with Shelbourne saw them fail to make up critical ground on league leaders Sligo Rovers.
The Hoops are now ten points behind Sligo with just seven matches to play, and with both Drogheda United and St Patrick’s Athletic ahead in the table, Stephen Kenny’s men are now, realistically, in a battle to secure one of the two guaranteed Europa League spots.
Speaking before Monday’s game Stephen Kenny acknowledged the disappointment of the result against Shelbourne.
“We've been in good form recently and our defensive has been very consistent, so the errors we made on Friday night against Shels were uncharacteristic for the way we've been playing lately. On Monday night, we need to make sure we go back to the way we were playing.”
"We are unbeaten at home in the league and we want to keep that going. But we need to turn the draws into wins and want to start with a victory tomorrow night. It is important that we respond in a positive way to Friday night's disappointment."
Kenny will be without central defender Graham Gartland who remains out with a back injury, while a number of players will be assessed before the game having picked up knocks against Shels. Craig Sives and Conor Powell are doubts, while Stephen O’Donnell has returned to training after his recent injury.
Aaron Callaghan’s side enter this game without a win in their last six attempts in the league. The Gypsies have gathered just two points from the 18 available, a run that has seen them lose some of the momentum gained during a solid mid-season.
But manager Callaghan points out that, with the exception of the defeat away to Sligo, the margins in their other recent reversals have been slight. This was certainly true last Friday when a terrific game saw the Gypsies lose out to St Patrick’s Athletic by the narrowest of margins.
“It was a really good game.” said Callaghan. “I found I was enjoying the game almost as a spectator. Both teams were trying to play football. The atmosphere on the night was good and it was a fantastic performance from the lads. The defeat is hard to take but sometimes you lose the right way by trying to have a go. We were fantastic all over the park. We caused them umpteen problems and they're a team with more experience than us.”
Recently Bohs have taken on a 3-5-2 formation and pushed central defender Evan McMillan up front. “It’s a more open and expansive system”, said Callaghan, “it gets more people into the box, it’s more exciting, but you leave yourself slightly exposed on the defensive side.”
Things have certainly picked up in an attacking sense with Bohs scoring five goals in their last three league games, after a run of three consecutive failures to hit the net. And with Evan McMillan scoring five times in the last eight league games, Callaghan’s men may have found the striking presence they have been missing for much of the season.
Referee: Paul McLaughlin.
These sides have played twice already in the league this season. Rovers won 2-0 in Tallaght back in March, while Bohs routed the Hoops 4-0 in Dalymount at the end of June. The sides also met in the Leinster Senior Cup, Rovers winning on penalties after a 1-1 draw.
Aside from the 0-0 draw with Monaghan, which was expunged from the records, Rovers have failed to score just three times in the league this year. Bohs failed to score in any of their opening five league games and have had nine blanks to date.
Ronan Finn is the man in goal-scoring form for Rovers. The midfielder has scored five goals in their last six league games, and has seven in total over the season.
Shamrock Rovers 4/9; Draw 3/1; Bohemians 11/2.
A notoriously difficult fixture to call - an eventful 2-2 draw.
Shamrock Rovers Injury News: Graham Gartland (out) - Craig Sives, Conor Powell, Stephen O’Donnell (all doubts).
Shamrock Rovers Suspension News: None.
Bohs Injury News: Owen Heary (back), Ryan McEvoy (ankle).
Bohs Suspension News: None.