Johnny McDonnell’s Drogheda United side look to make it four wins in a row in all competitions as they play host to Peter Hutton’s Derry City on Friday night.
Back to back wins in the league against Galway and Limerick and a cup win at home to Cabinteely means that the Boynesiders’ come into this game off the back of three consecutive victories, in what is easily their best form of the season so far.
The main aim for Drogheda this season, has always been to avoid relegation and given the budget that Johnny McDonnell has had to work with, coming up to the mid-season break, a mid-table position would have to be classed as a successful first half to the season. However, speaking to the official club website, McDonnell said that there is still a long way to go until his side can begin to say that they are safe,
“Our aim at the start of the season was to finish as high as possible in the league. We didn’t put a number on it as our primary objective was to avoid relegation and that remains the goal.”
“We are a long way from being safe at this stage. I think once we get to 32/33 points we’ll be alright but until then we need to approach every game with the same level of commitment and performance that we’ve shown in the last few weeks.”
Daryl Kavanagh is again available following a return from suspension and may find it hard to work his way back into the starting 11, given the form that Lee Duffy is in. The former Shels man is now the Boynesiders’ top scorer and has been key to their success in recent weeks, including against Limerick, where his strike from the edge of the box gave Drogheda the three points.
McDonnell will however again be without the suspended Shane Dunne, who has four matches left to serve of his five match ban, picked up for a betting offence. Midfielder Mark Hughes is also doubtful with a groin injury.
Speaking to www.droghedaunited.ie, McDonnell warned that his players can’t lose their focus against Derry,
“I know that Derry have been on a bad run of late and seem to be conceding a fair few goals but they will look at us as an opportunity to get back on track. We are in form at the moment with four wins in six but I want to remind the players that they can’t lose focus especially against a side like Derry.”
Derry, unlike Drogheda, come into this fixture in their worst form of the season, having picked up just two points in their last seven league matches, courtesy of draws against Longford and Sligo Rovers.
Peter Hutton’s side are currently 9th in the league, just three points above the relegation/play-off spot. However, victory on Friday night could, depending on results, see his side rise to 7th, above both Drogheda and Galway and give them a much needed confidence boost going into the mid-season break.
“This is a very important game for us particularly with the break coming up. It will see us go into the break with some much needed confidence.”
In team news, Derry will be without captain Ryan McBride after the defender was sent off on Monday in the defeat to Shamrock Rovers. Meanwhile, Stephen Dooley (back) has returned to light training but is still unavailable. The club also today announced that forward Anthony Elding, who scored twice when Derry beat Drogheda 3-0 in the Brandywell in March, has left the club.
Speaking ahead of the game, manager Hutton stressed that while there is now added pressure going into this game, his side are still confident in their ability,
“There is always some pressure but given the recent run of results it has built a little more, but it’s our job to make sure that it doesn’t affect us.”
“We are still very confident in our ability and we know that once we get players back and maybe add a couple of fresh faces we will start to climb the table.”
Pundit Arena Prediction:
Drogheda United 2-0 Derry City.
Doubtful: Mark Hughes (groin).
Suspended: Shane Dunne.
Injured: Stephen Dooley (back).
Suspended: Ryan McBride.
Last Two Meetings:
League, 27th March 2015: Derry City 3-0 Drogheda United.
FAI Cup Replay, 16th September 2014: Derry City 5-0 Drogheda United.
Referee: Neil Doyle.
Assistants: Ciaran Delaney & Rhona Daly.
Fourth Official: Simon Rogers.
Gerard Grimes, Pundit Arena.