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Dundalk will be looking to get back to winning ways on Friday night when they face their nearest rivals Drogheda United in the Louth derby at Oriel Park.
Stephen Kenny is hoping for a response following his side’s disappointing defeat at the hands of Cork City last Saturday but has suffered a huge blow with Robbie Benson, who limped off in the early stages of that match, now expected to be out for up to two months due to a torn hamstring.
Benson joins a long list of absentees which includes Ciaran Kilduff, who serves a one-match suspension after his sending off at Turners Cross, while captain Stephen O’Donnell remains on the treatment table with a thigh problem.
Kenny will be praying his star player Patrick McEleney passes a late fitness test and defender Paddy Barrett is also a doubt with Sean Hoare ready to step in following his return from injury.
“For ourselves we have Robbie Benson, Shane Grimes and Stephen O’Donnell ruled out along with Steven Kinsella”, said Kenny.
“We are waiting on a couple of others who have knocks. They should be okay but we are waiting on Paddy Barrett and Patrick McEleney who have knocks from last weekend so we will see how they are.
“From our point of view, we have to regroup this week and our performances at home since the start of the season have been very, very good. We have picked up three wins at Oriel Park.
“We have a passionate home support here at Dundalk. It is important to bounce back and get a victory after the defeat last week. Our objective is to bounce back and win the game.”
The Lilywhites are boosted by the possible return of their top scorer from last season David McMillan, who scored from the bench last week, to the starting eleven in place of the suspended Kilduff.
Drogheda will make the short journey up the M1 to Oriel Park desperate to put an end to their barren run of four successive league defeats which was continued in last week’s narrow loss at home to Bohemians, though it was a game Pete Mahon’s side really should’ve took something from.
"We should've won the game based on the chances we created," said Mahon.
"Bohs had chances of their own but that was mainly down to our poor play. We've worked a lot on eradicating that in training this week and hopefully that will stand to us. As far as taking chances is concerned, it's all up to the individual on the pitch but it's about time they started going in for us."
Drogheda will indeed have to be far more potent in front of goal if they’re to cause the reigning champions any problems at all on Friday night but they are boosted by the return of Richie Purdy from suspension, though Killian Brennan remains unfit.
This week’s new signing Ryan Coulter, most recently with Longford Town, goes straight into the matchday squad as backup to first-choice goalkeeper Stephen McGuinness, who will no doubt have his work cut out for him when he faces up to the might of Dundalk.
"A lot of people have been writing their (Dundalk’s) obituary after their slow start but I'm not one of them,” continued Mahon.
“Any team that has lost the players they had, now two Ireland internationals, are always going to take some time to adjust. They have quality players capable of filling the void as we've seen with the performances Patrick McEleney has produced.
"It's a step up in class for our players this season both from a performance and mentality perspective and Friday will be another test for them.
"We will go there respecting them but certainly not with any inferiority complex. Our goal will be to pressure them and play our own game."
Referee: Ben Connolly
This match represents the 202nd time the Louth derby has been contested with Dundalk winning on 83 occasions to Drogheda’s 72. The last meeting between the sides saw The Lilywhites record an emphatic 6-0 win over their neighbours at Oriel Park in September 2015.
Dundalk have three former Drogheda players in their squad including goalkeepers Gary Rogers and Gabriel Sava while Shane Grimes was once upon a time captain for The Boynesiders.
Drogheda also have three ex-Dundalk players currently in their ranks – Mark Griffin, Ciaran McGuigan and new signing Ryan Coulter, who played one match for The Lilywhites in 2009.
Dundalk 2/9; Draw 5/1; Drogheda United 12/1
Dundalk 3-1 Drogheda United
Injured: Robbie Benson (hamstring), Steven Kinsella (groin), Stephen O’Donnell (thigh), Shane Grimes (hamstring).
Doubtful: Paddy Barrett (thigh), Patrick McEleney (groin).
Suspended: Ciaran Kilduff.
Injured: Killian Brennan (collarbone).