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In-Form Bray Host Drogheda In Crucial Bottom Half Clash

Drogheda United travel to the Carlisle Grounds on Saturday evening to take on Mick Cooke’s Bray Wanderers, who have picked up four wins in their last five games.

Bray Wanderers’ last seven league matches have all been decided by a scoreline of 1-0 with Bray winning four of those and losing three, including the narrow one-goal defeat to league-leaders Dundalk last week.

However, it was the four victories on the bounce against Sligo, Limerick, Derry and Galway prior to the Dundalk defeat that has seen Bray move up to 7th in the league, with a game in hand on their nearest rivals in the lower half of the table. Bray are a point behind sixth-placed Longford and just one point clear of Derry, Drogheda and Galway.

Manager Mick Cooke felt that his side were unlucky to lose to league leaders Dundalk last Friday and felt his side could have taken at least a point, when speaking to RTÉ.

“I felt that we were unlucky to lose against Dundalk last Friday. We played well, defended strongly and attacked at pace while creating chances, we had more possession and ultimately we could have taken a point if not all three.”

Speaking to bwfc.ie ahead of the game against his former club, Cooke said he feels it will be a tight game where three points would be huge for his side.

“Saturday’s game will be extremely tight. Drogheda are a good football side and Johnny (McDonnell) has them well drilled. Three points for us tonight (Saturday) would be huge in the closely contested mini-league of the bottom-half.”

In team news, Bray will again be without goalkeeper Stephen McGuinness, who is still a few weeks away from return due to ankle ligament damage, meaning Peter Cherrie will continue in goal. Adam Hanlon, who scored the winning goal against Derry recently, is also a week away for return because of fluid on his knee.

Unlike Bray who have four wins in five, Drogheda have just one win in their last five games, a 1-0 victory away to Bohemians at the end of June, courtesy of a last minute Tiarnan Mulvenna header.

Defeats at home to Dundalk, Pat’s and Shamrock Rovers, along with a draw away to Longford has left the Boynesiders sitting in ninth place in the league but a win could see them jump to sixth place.

McDonnell’s side have already beaten Bray twice this season, a 1-0 win in the opening game of the season was followed by a 4-2 victory at United Park in May, in a game where Lee Duffy & Jason Marks both put in Man of the Match performances. Marks played out of position at left back that night and he may start in that role again as suspensions mean Drogheda are short at the back.

McDonnell made a surprising change to his lineup against Rovers last week as he started new signing Ger Pender up front while fellow strikers Tiarnan Mulvenna and top goalscorer Lee Duffy were out wide. However, McDonnell told the club website that he may change this again,

“We know that Tiarnan and Lee are comfortable playing out wide and we needed to giver Ger some game time so he can improve his match fitness and sharpness. I thought they all played well but we may look to change it again against Bray as I would imagine that they will play with a more counter-attacking style.”

Speaking to droghedaunited.ie ahead of the trip to the Carlisle Grounds, McDonnell again pointed out that Drogheda’s next five games, all against sides in the bottom half of the table, is likely to define their season.

“I only like to look at it one game at a time but I think 30 points will probably be enough to keep us up. That means we need to pick up three wins from the remaining games. Our last few games are against the top sides so it’s vital that we get some more points on the board in the next few weeks.”

In team news, Drogheda will be without centre back Alan Byrne and left back Joe Gorman (who had played every minute in competitive matches for Drogheda this season), as the pair are suspended after each picked up five yellow cards this season. Long-term absentees James Daly and goalkeeper Dylan Connolly are also still unavailable as they recover from a broken leg and a broken wrist respectively.

There was also a worry over Byrne’s usual centre-back partner, Robert O’Reilly but it looks as if the young defender has recovered from illness and should be available to start.

Fionn Reilly, who had been unavailable for a number of weeks with a hip injury, is again fit. In more positive news for Drogheda, new signings Nathan Seery and Mark O’Brien are available for selection following FAI clearance.

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Pundit Arena Prediction

Bray Wanderers 1-1 Drogheda United

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Team News

Bray Wanderers

Injured: Stephen McGuinness (ankle ligaments), Adam Hanlon (knee).

Suspended: None.

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Drogheda United

Injured: James Daly (broken leg), Dylan Connolly (broken wrist).

Suspended: Alan Byrne, Joe Gorman.

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Last Two Meetings

League, 8 May 2015: Drogheda United 4-2 Bray Wanderers.

League, 7 March 2015: Bray Wanderers 0-1 Drogheda United.

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Referee

Ben Connolly.

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Betting

Bray Wanderers 11/8, Draw 11/5, Drogheda United 21/10.

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Gerard Grimes, Pundit Arena

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Author: The PA Team

This article was written by a member of The PA Team.