Dundalk are looking to capitalise on their impressive Louth derby victory on Monday night against Drogheda United with an equally important three points against table-topping St Patrick’s Athletic.
Confidence is high in the Lilywhites camp though ahead of this exciting encounter due to their impressive displays following a disappointing defeat at home at the hands of UCD last month.
They followed that up with victory away to Sligo before dumping Phoenix out of the FAI Cup and are now hoping to reduce the gap at the top ahead of the summer break.
A win at Oriel Park on Friday night will move Stephen Kenny’s side six points behind the league leaders and with the advantage of a game in hand and a title challenge would not be out of the question if they can emerge with the win in one of their biggest games of the season.
Dundalk, who currently sit fourth in the Premier Division standings, will have to take to the field for this one though without some key players.
Midfield pair John Mountney and Stephen O’Donnell both miss out through suspension which will be a big blow for Dundalk while defender Eoghan Osborne is a slight doubt with an infection.
Boss Kenny is confident the side will be able to cope with these absences and is also very happy with the way his team are performing at the moment and sees no reason why they cannot halt Pat’s unbeaten run.
“The players have responded brilliantly in the past few weeks with away wins to Sligo Rovers, Drogheda on Monday and the Cup win against Phoenix was excellent too. We have been on a good run and have played some good football,” said the man in charge in the north east.
“The players are enjoying their football at the minute, they’ve been brilliant. We have to make a re-adjustment with the two boys suspended (John Mountney and Stephen O’Donnell) but I am confident we will. St. Patrick’s Athletic are in great form and have a good lead at the moment but we will be doing our utmost to win the match and keep our own form going on Friday.”
ST PATRICK’S ATHLETIC
St Pat’s make the journey up the M1 on Friday night looking to extend their lead at the top of the Premier Division while also potentially killing off another challenger to that crown in the process.
A victory for the Inchicore outfit would all but end any aspirations Dundalk have of being up there at the end of the season, given that it would leave them 12 points off the top albeit with having played a game fewer.
The seven-time league champions are looking for their first championship since 1999 and are currently on a 16-game unbeaten streak across all competitions in a bid to end their 14-year spell without lifting the league title.
In fact, the last time that Pat’s tasted defeat this year was against Dundalk when they visited Richmond Park in early April on league duty.
It has also been five games since they last let in a goal and have conceded just twice in the previous eight games in all competitions so will rightly be in high spirits when they make the short trip north.
Manager Liam Buckley expects a difficult game against in-form Dundalk but is also expecting his side, who are enjoying their own purple patch at the moment, to come out on top.
He told the club’s official website: “Dundalk are a bit like us last year in that Stephen [Kenny] has put a good squad together, they’re playing well together and enjoying some good results at the moment.
“They beat us earlier in the season so we don’t need to be reminded about how good they are. But it’s a big game for us as we’re top of the table at the moment. We’re there on merit having worked hard, so we expect the lads to continue to do that tomorrow night and see where it takes us.”
Buckley also has no injury problems ahead of the contest and is in fact boosted by the return to action of John Russell who is back in training following an ankle injury.
Referee: Anthony Buttimer
Dundalk are one of only two sides (the other being Shamrock Rovers) to have bested Saints in the league this season, winning 2-1 early in the campaign through goals from John Dillon and Kurtis Byrne.
The Dublin side won on both their visits to Oriel last season, 2-0 on the opening day and 1-0 in August.
Since returning to the Premier Division in 2009, Dundalk have never beaten St Pat’s at home in any competition and are winless against them at Oriel Park since 1998.
Dundalk 10/3; Draw 9/4; St Pat’s 5/6.
A close contest that the in-form Pat’s may narrowly edge. 1-0 to the visitors.
Doubtful: Eoghan Osborne (infection).
Suspended: John Mountney, Stephen O’Donnell
St Patrick’s Athletic