Limerick FC entertain Bray Wanderers on Friday night at the Markets Field with the aim of consolidating their top-half position before the mid-season break while also staying away from the relegation zone (kick-off 7.45 pm). Bray lie in third placed and are seven points better off than Limerick. However, both sides have been in poor form and will be aware how tight it is at the bottom of the league.
The two clubs have already met once this season on the 25th March at the Carlisle Grounds . Limerick secured a superb 0-1 victory during Bray’s best spell of the season in a dour game devoid of atmosphere. Limerick stifled the impressive attacking quartet of Gary McCabe, Dylan Connolly, Anto Flood and former blue Aaron Greene.
The aforementioned players had been virtually free-scoring up until that point. Considering Limerick’s frailties in defence, the battling qualities shown on the night must be commended but were not a sign of things to come. Captain Shane Duggan and Paul O’Conor were particularly energetic in their defensive midfield roles on the night. Young defender Tony Whitehead handled the physical threat of the experienced Anto Flood extremely well and Bray had no plan B. The game would prove to be Martin Russell’s last away game in charge of Limerick.
However, at the Markets Field, Limerick will be expected to play a more expansive game. This is the first home where the narrow 4-4-2 which Neil McDonald favours will be on show. On a wide pitch in Garryowen, the refusal to select natural wide players, which has been a problem all season, may cause Limerick problems again. Limerick appear to be over-reliant on Chiedozie Ogbene in the attacking third in recent times.
Last Friday night, Limerick suffered a 3-2 defeat at the hands of Finn Harps in Donegal. Harps have proved to be a bogey team for Limerick in recent times. The result was a damaging one as it means Limerick sit just five points outside the relegation zone. Safety must be the priority for the Super Blues with three clubs going down.
Manager Neil McDonald bemoaned the lack of attacking threat and admitted the defending was not up to the required standard.
“The damage was done in the first half. Our attacking play was slow and we gave ourselves an uphill battle.Not only were we not clinical but we were not very good at defending in the first half and that cost us.”
The former Blackpool manager realises that the squad needs to be freshened up in July and is looking forward to bouncing back from defeat on Friday night.
“We’ll look now to the next game against Bray and will try and get a few more points on the board and to look up. We are looking to strengthen and we will have to do so if we want to move up the table.”
Limerick will be without centre-back Barry Cotter for the game while captain Shane Duggan is a doubt having picked up an injury against Finn Harps.
Bray arrive at the Garryowen venue off the back of a 2-0 defeat in Tallaght on Tuesday evening at the hands of Shamrock Rovers. Bray boss Harry Kenny feels that the recent gruelling schedule has had an adverse effect on his team.
“We were very disappointed with the result and performance against Shamrock Rovers in Tallaght. The recent amount of games seemed to have caught up with the lads, playing four games in eleven days is very demanding for part time players. In saying that Rovers played very well and deserved their victory.”
The Dubliner is hoping his players can regroup to finish the first half of the season on a high.
“We need to regroup and prepare for Limerick on Friday. We be going all out to secure the points before the mid-season break.”
Bray midfielder Keith Buckley is a doubt for the game with a foot injury picked up in the loss at Shamrock Rovers. However, Kenny has no other injury concerns. Aaron Greene will return to the Markets Field having been part of the Limerick squad that romped to the First Division title last season. Greene has been impressive for Bray this season and caused Limerick left-back Tommy Robson some problems when the sides met earlier in the season.
Referee: Anthony Buttimer