St. Patrick’s Athletic host Mark Kinsella’s Drogheda United in a game of huge importance for both sides on Friday night, as Liam Buckley’s men, who have a game in hand over Bohemians, could all but secure European football for next season, depending on Bohemians’ result vs Sligo.
Meanwhile, the Boynesiders will be looking to put themselves a step closer to avoiding the play-off, or worse, automatic relegation.
The home side have lost five of their last six league games, a 3-0 victory away to Longford being the only win in those matches. A 2-0 defeat away to Bohemians last week meant that Pat’s are now just five points clear of Bohemians, a gap which could reduce to two, should Buckley’s men lose to Drogheda and Bohemians beat Sligo.
Speaking to stpatsfc.com ahead of the game, manager Liam Buckley said his side have to pick themselves up but knows it will be a tough game against a side who are fighting for survival.
“Last week was disappointing, a few things didn’t go our way and we were disappointed with the goals we conceded. But we’ve got to pick ourselves up now for the Drogheda game. They’re fighting for survival at the moment with a number of teams so we know it’ll be a tough game.
“But we’ve only three games left at home now in Inchicore over the next week so we’ll be looking to finish on a high in front of our supporters.”
In team news, Lee Desmond is back available for Buckley following injury. Killian Brennan is also available again, as is Kenny Browne, who returns from suspension. However, Buckley will have to do without a trio of suspended players. Jason McGuinness is suspended following his red card last week, and he will join Sean Hoare and Greg Bolger, who are both suspended also. Ger O’Brien will faces a fitness test before the game.
As things stand, there are just six points separating Derry City, who currently sit sixth and Limerick, who are bottom of the league in 12th. That means Drogheda, who are in the relegation play-off spot, two points ahead of Limerick, could either, depending on results elsewhere, jump to as high as 7th or drop to the bottom of the league for the first time this season.
On paper, it was the Boynesiders who had one of the hardest runs of all the relegation-threatened teams of late, having to play Dundalk, Bohemians, Cork, St. Pat’s, Longford and Shamrock Rovers in their last six games.
Three games into that run and Kinsella’s men have lost to Dundalk but picked up important points against both Bohemians and Cork City, in a performance that, in an interview with droghedaunited.ie, caretaker boss Mark Kinsella said delighted him.
“I was delighted with our performance and I think it was a good point to pick up. It’s important to remember that Cork are second in the league and it was vital for us not to be beaten at home. It was disappointing how cheaply we gave away the goal but we handled the pressure brilliantly.
“The way the game was going, I thought we might have won it with a set-piece but it wasn’t to be and I think a draw was probably a fair result.”
Since the departure of Johnny McDonnell, Kinsella has somewhat steadied the ship and has picked up an important five points from a possible twelve, something the former Ireland international believes is down to the togetherness of his players, who he says have been a credit to themselves in recent weeks,
“The group have been a credit to themselves over the last six weeks. We have only lost once since I took over and that was to Dundalk who seem to win every week. The players know that earlier in the season there were games that they should have won that they ended up losing but our attitude is different now.”
Sean Thornton and Jason Marks return from suspension, with Robert Bayly, who was MOTM against Cork last week, the only doubt for the game through a knock.
Pundit Arena Prediction
St. Patrick’s Athletic 1-1 Drogheda United
St. Patrick’s Athletic
Doubtful: Ger O’Brien.
Suspended: Jason McGuinness, Greg Bolger, Sean Hoare.
Doubtful: Robert Bayly.
Last Two Meetings
League, 17 July 2015: Drogheda United 0-2 St. Patrick’s Athletic.
League, 20 April 2015: St. Patrick’s Athletic 2-2 Drogheda United.
St. Patrick’s Athletic 4/9, Draw 16/5, Drogheda United 6/1.
Kick-off: 7:45pm (Live on RTE2)
Gerard Grimes, Pundit Arena