Limerick FC entertain Drogheda United at the Markets Field on Friday night as they look to bounce back from last week’s narrow 1-0 defeat to Bray Wanderers.
Last week’s result allowed Bray to close the gap to the Super Blues to one point in the SSE Airtricity First Division table.
It also allowed Cabinteely to stretch their lead in fourth place to four points following a hard fought draw with Shelbourne.
In truth, the Seagulls were deserving winners over Tommy Barrett’s side, particularly on the back of a very impressive first half performance.
Goalkeeper Jack Brady had to once again be at his best to deny Richie Purdy and Dylan McGlade in two one-on-one situations while McGlade also went close with a shot from distance.
Despite the home side’s dominance, it was a moment of self-destruction that cost Limerick when Clyde O’Connell attempted to shield the ball out of play in first half injury time.
However, he lost his bearings and pushed former Longford man McGlade over to concede a penalty. Bray captain Paul Keegan dispatched the penalty, much to the frustration of Barrett.
Limerick struggled to create any chances and Kieran Hanlon had two wayward shots which sailed over Gabriel Sava’s crossbar.
Hanlon had a tough job as much of the service was in the air and Hugh Douglas and Sean Heaney are proficient at winning aerial duels.
However, it was a very lethargic display from the Limerick front man and the toll of being the only senior striker in the squad was noticeable.
Former Limerick player Killian Cantwell was shown a red card for a foul on Lee Devitt as he powered through on goal and looked certain to score, but even with 10 men, Bray looked the more likely to score on the counter.
With high scoring Drogheda coming to town, the Super Blues will have to re-create the performance shown against Longford at the Garryowen venue two weeks ago in order to achieve a result.
Last week, the Boynesiders were beaten 2-1 by Longford which meant that they dropped to third in the table. Although it was a bitterly disappointing defeat, Tim Clancy’s men come to Limerick with four wins from the previous six games.
In contrast, Limerick have only picked up two wins from the previous six games despite how impressive the recent home victory was.
Limerick will be without midfielder Darren Murphy who was already suspended for the game but also picked up a knee injury in training last week and only lasted 15 minutes of the game with Bray before being replaced by Edmond O’Dwyer.
With the absence of Murphy, the team will be boosted by the return of Sean McSweeney to the side after the number 10 was on international duty with the Irish University squad for the last three weeks.
It is likely that Jason Hughes and Clyde O’Connell will operate behind McSweeney on Friday night.
Lee Devitt has made a positive impact and as mentioned above, was likely to score for the second week in a row last Friday was it not for a cynical foul.
Operating on the left side of a front three is clearly not Devitt’s preferred position, but the hard working player gives Tommy Barrett a lot in defence, particularly against the bigger sides in the division and in away games.
The back four will almost certainly remain the same on Friday night although it is disappointing that Aaron Fitzgerald has been unable to build on his display against Shelbourne in which he got the better of one of the league’s greatest wingers in Conan Byrne.
His pace is a big asset in that position but he has been hampered with injury all season.
Kieran Hanlon will be delighted to be returning to the Markets Field where the physical striker has inflicted plenty of damage this season.
He is certainly an asset to have when playing at home as Limerick are generally on the front foot and supply crosses to the box. Although
Adam Foley has shown plenty of energy when regularly introduced as a substitute since Connor Ellis departure, Barrett will likely stick with Hanlon for such a big game.
The Shannonsiders and Drogheda have met on two occasions so far this season. In March, the sides drew 0-0 in an even contest at the Markets Field while in April, Drogheda got the better of Limerick with a 3-2 victory helped by two penalties from captain Sean Brennan.
Barrett’s charges can boost morale once more with a win that would move them to within three points of Drogheda.