Limerick manager Martin Russell will be looking for a positive response from his players after a tough week as they face Drogheda United at Thomond Park, kick off 7.45pm.
The Super Blues suffered a surprise 4-0 defeat at home to Derry City on Monday in a game in which they were second best from start to finish as the Candystripes struck twice in each half to seal a resounding victory.
Despite suffering his first loss at home since taking charge of Limerick last month, Russell is confident that his players will answer their critics starting this Friday.
“I think the boys will respond,” Russell told LimerickFC.ie. “They’re disappointed in themselves and that’s where you’re confident we’ll get a good response. That’s what we’re looking for. But we’ll always focus on ourselves and we want to improve our standards on a continuous basis. There’s no better way than to bounce back in a positive manner against Drogheda.”
Results have been mixed since Russell’s appointment as Limerick have won three and lost three in his six games in charge, as they remain seventh in the table only a point above Friday’s opponents.
Limerick have several injury concerns ahead of Drogheda’s visit as defenders Robbie Williams, Samuel Oji and Stephen Folan are all doubtful and will be assessed at training on Thursday. Midfielder Jason Hughes is also a concern with a knee injury while Michael Leahy has been ruled out with a groin strain and the former UCD manager has admitted that his side may not be at its strongest.
“The game coming so quick helps things. There probably is a double edge in terms of we’re trying to get players who are maybe not as injury-free as we want them to be over the line for the weekend. Hopefully we do and we can get the performance and result that we’re looking for.”
The Boynesiders advanced to the quarter-finals of the FAI Cup last Sunday as they secured a professional 4-0 victory away to Munster Senior League side Ballynanty Rovers. That victory was Drogheda’s fourth in their last six outings as they aim to finish a turbulent season on a high.
Damien Richardson, who was absent for United’s cup victory due to a prior family engagement in London, was pleased with the comprehensive nature of Drogheda’s victory in what he believed was a potential banana skin tie.
“When we finished training on Saturday, I asked the players to seize the opportunity on Sunday with both hands and that’s exactly what they did,” Richardson said on Thursday. “It’s never easy travelling to a lower league side but we were very professional from what I’ve heard from Darius and that is highly encouraging. Anything can happen in a Cup game but once the players approach it in the right manner that is all I can ask for.”
Speaking about Friday’s opponents, the 67 year-old Dubliner is anticipating a tight clash with the Blues as his side could rise as high as seventh in the table depending on results.
“I’m very excited to be managing against Limerick for the first time in many years as they were relegated during my time at Cork City and Thomond Park is a wonderful venue for football. It’s pleasing to see Martin Russell in charge as he is a real football man and I’m certain that he will be successful there but we are confident that we can cause them problems tomorrow night.”
Gavin Brennan will be unavailable for Drogheda as he starts a four-match ban following his third red card of the season. Mick Daly is doubtful and will be assessed at training tonight while Stephen Maher should return to full training in the next ten days
Referee: Ray Matthews
The visitors have a good record at Thomond Park having won there earlier in the season through a solitary Declan O’Brien strike, making it consecutive seasons that they have left Limerick with all three points.
It has been 16 games since Limerick were last involved in a draw in the league, 1-1 away to Shamrock Rovers on May 2nd.
Drogheda have conceded the joint highest number of goals on their travels this season with 32, the same as UCD.
Limerick evens, Draw 23/10, Drogheda 13/5
Limerick 1-1 Drogheda
Injured: Michael Leahy
Doubtful: Stephen Folan, Samuel Oji, Robbie Williams, Jason Hughes
Injured: Stephen Maher
Doubtful: Mick Daly
Suspended: Gavin Brennan