Drogheda manager Mick Cooke will be hoping that his team have left their recent run of poor results behind them following the mid-season break and that they can get back to winning ways on Friday night when they welcome Shamrock Rovers to Hunky Dorys Park. His team come into this Airtricity League match with five defeats from their last six league games but during that time they did have an impressive 3-0 FAI Cup win over Bohemians.
It is a big week for Drogheda as they have two crucial matches coming up following Friday’s game with the Hoops. Next Monday, they welcome Cork City to Drogheda in the EA Sports Cup quarter-final before their European clash on Thursday with Malmo; a tie that will be played in Tallaght Stadium.
“We are fully focused on Friday night and then the quarter-final on Monday,” outlined Mick Cooke speaking in advance of the game against Rovers. “We've always taken one game at a time and the lads know what they need to do. No-one is getting ahead of themselves. We have lost our last four games, but I've never been unhappy with the performances, it's something we are working on and we are using as a motivating factor.”
The Boynesiders will have to do without a quartet of players who are missing due to suspension (Alan Byrne, Alan McNally, Ryan Brennan and David Cassidy), in addition to the injured Philip Hand. It is likely that Mick Cooke will not be able to call upon the services of Eric Foley for the rest of the season following the player’s hernia operation.
“We have a few lads out for Friday night,” said Cooke, “but I think this just presents an opportunity to the rest of the lads in the squad to put their hands up for a starting place. We have two games before Thursday [in Europe] and I said that we need the game time. We have a few lads who haven't played in a month. It's a good game to re-start the league with. I said from earlier on in the season that you should never write off Shamrock Rovers. Trevor [Croly] has a big squad but I think they have found their form in the last few weeks. We went up there earlier in the season and had a 1-1 draw.”
Shamrock Rovers return from the mid-season break with Trevor Croly having virtually a full squad at his disposal. While four Drogheda United players have an extended break due to suspension, only the injured David Elebert is definitely missing for the Hoops.
Jason McGuinness is a doubt for Rovers but both goalkeeper Barry Murphy and striker Mark Quigley are bidding for places in the starting line-up after both missed out recently due to injury. Quigley trained through the break as he plays catch up with the rest of the Rovers squad after his injury lay-off.
The Hoops come into the game 10 games unbeaten in all competitions, having won their last three league games. Speaking to www.shamrockrovers.ie ahead of the game, Trevor Croly confirmed that he is looking for his side to continue their recent good form. “We had a few days off,” said Croly. “The rest has re-energised everyone. We were playing well and winning games going into the break so to a point we would almost have liked to have played on. But it is always healthy to have that little period of rest if you can.
“Like Drogheda, we have played a lot of games in the first half of the season when you include the Setanta Sports Cup. That was intense so the break was good for us.”
It was in the cross-border competition that the two sides last met with Rovers claiming the trophy after an emphatic 7-1 win in the final over the Boynesiders. The Hoops currently lie in fifth place in the league table and are looking to close the gap on the teams above them with Dundalk their first target. If Rovers are to overcome the six point gap to the Lilywhites quickly, they will want to claim all three points on Friday. However, they have only won one game on their travels in the league this season. That was on their last trip on the road when in a dominating display they won in Turner’s Cross (where they are now unbeaten against Cork City since 2007).
Trevor Croly knows though that overcoming Drogheda on their home turf will not be easy. “Drogheda are a good side and will come back at us,” said Croly about Mick Cooke’s side who will be seeking revenge for the Setanta final demolition. “I’m sure it will be a good game. We are on a good run and it is important that we restart well having prepared correctly this week in the run up to the game.”
Referee: Derek Tomney.
Drogheda have lost five of their last six league games but all by a solitary goal. Their last win was back in mid-April against UCD.
In their last league encounter between Drogheda and Rovers, the teams drew 1-1 at Tallaght Stadium in April with Ronan Finn on the score sheet for the Hoops that night cancelling out Paul O’Conor’s goal for United.
Declan ‘Fabio’ O’Brien has scored 10 league goals in 2012 for the Boynesiders. He sits joint second in the Top Goalscorer table along with Jason Byrne, Anthony Elding and David McMillan. They are all four goals behind Derry City’s Rory Patterson. Ronan Finn is Rovers’ top goalscorer so far this season. The midfielder has seven league goals plus a further three Setanta Sports Cup strikes to his name.
Drogheda United 10/3; Draw 12/5; Shamrock Rovers 4/5.
Away win 2-1.
Injured: Philip Hand, Eric Foley.
Suspended: Ryan Brennan, Alan Byrne, David Cassidy, Alan McNally.
Injured: David Elebert.
Doubtful: Jason McGuinness.