Heracles Almelo v Jong PSV
While PEC Zwolle already achieved promotion last week, it could be Heracles’s chance to secure a spot in the top flight this Friday. They’d only need to beat Jong PSV to get promoted and they might not even need a result if Almere City fail to win their match.
It is unlikely, though, that Heracles will need Almere to fail, because they are far better than Jong PSV. The PSV academy side has had some help recently from the first team, who don’t have that many injuries these days, but results have remained subpar. With the first team not playing the cup final until Sunday, Jong PSV might still be able to play Ismael Saibari, Fode Fofana and some of the other fringe players for this game, and that could help their attacking strength more than anything.
Heracles are the highest scorers in the league, even topping league leaders PEC Zwolle and especially on their own plastic pitch they find the goal very easy. Heracles are without their top goalscorer Nikolai Laursen (16 goals), who did his ACL a few weeks ago, but both Emil Hansson and Samuel Armenteros (15 goals), are eyeing his crown as the team’s top goalscorer. In the last two matches, they claimed two tight 1–0 victories, which made the price for goals a bit better for Heracles, but against a weak Jong PSV defence there should be plenty of scoring opportunities, that’s why I’d put my money on overs.
ADO Den Haag v Helmond Sport
ADO Den Haag are fighting for their last chance to reach the play-offs. They’d probably need to win all of the last four games and hope that FC Eindhoven drop points. After a few tough weeks, their fixture is now pretty favourable, so people in Den Haag haven’t quite lost hope yet. Last week, away at direct rivals De Graafschap, it was striker Thomas Verheydt who scored the winning goal late in the game. It was hardly deserved, but was in classic Dick Advocaat style. Hang back, keep the defensive shape, and strike on pretty much your only chance of the game.
Against Helmond Sport, they are expected to have the upper hand. Despite the change of manager in the South, they aren’t playing that much better. The only thing that really improved is that they’ve become a lot tighter at the back and don’t concede a plethora of goals as they so often did prior. ADO have a lot of experience and quality up front with Verheydt, Ricardo Kishna, and Joey Sleegers.
Tyrese Asante and Xander Severina had to miss last week’s game against De Graafschap due to minor knocks, but seem fit for this important match against Helmond Sport and especially Severina has been pretty important since Advocaat took charge at ADO, that’s why I expect the home side to take the victory here.
FC Den Bosch v Telstar
Telstar are somehow still in the race for a play-off spot, but are in the same boat as ADO Den Haag, they need FC Eindhoven to drop points to maintain a chance on the promotion play-offs. FC Den Bosch are probably the worst team in the league at the moment, but somehow they claimed a victory over Roda JC last week. The goalscorer in that game, Nikolaj Möller, won’t be there against Telstar as he received two yellow cards in the five minutes after his winning goal. It was only Den Bosch’s first win in five games and they have mostly been pretty shocking in the meantime, with the 13-0 defeat against PEC as a negative highlight.
Telstar are doing surprisingly well this season. They don’t really have a side to brag about, but manager Mike Snoei cemented the defence into something difficult to score against and with David Min, they have a striker who is close to top-flight quality. Several of his goals came at key moments in this season. Min scored the only goal in Telstar’s last two victories and something like that is expected from him again against FC Den Bosch with nothing left to play for besides avoiding finishing at the bottom of the table, so Telstar should be able to get the three points here.
Bray Wanderers v Waterford FC
Waterford FC are a perfect 4/4 under new Head Coach Keith Long while Bray Wanderers are currently on a three-match winless run in all competitions.
Waterford started the season as favourites to win the First Division but after a stuttering start Danny Searle was shown the door with the experienced Keith Long taking up the hot seat at the RSC. Since his appointment, Long appears to have let the handbrake off Waterford with striker Ronan Coughlan netting all four goals in a 4-3 win against Athlone before bagging a hattrick in a comprehensive 4-1 win away to Treaty United on Monday.
Bray Wanderers were fortunate to come away with a point away to one of the league’s strugglers Longford last weekend with De Town hitting the crossbar in added-on time to win the game while they also turned down some great opportunities to kill the match off when they were 1-0 ahead.
Bray looked more than open at the back and if they carry the same sort of performance into this game they will be punished against a far better side.
UCD AFC v Bohemians
Bohemians are currently the League of Ireland’s equation to a cat up a tree, nobody knows how they got there but everyone expects them to eventually come back down.
However, despite such scepticism, the Gypsies continue to fly high with Declan Devine’s men winning away to a very difficult opponent in the shape of Drogheda United last time.
While Bohs very much rode their luck at times in that game, that’s been a theme in some of Bohs big results this season, they’ve found a way to win even when they are up against it.
Sadly, UCD can’t say the same. The Students have been outclassed in most of their games this season and even when they haven’t they’ve found a way to lose by giving away cheap goals. Sligo Rovers were probably flattered by the 3-1 scoreline last weekend but when you give up the chances UCD do, that’s probably going to be the case more often than not.
UCD put up a brave fight when going down to Bohemians earlier in the season and a similar story is probably likely here.
Finn Harps v Longford Town
The previous encounter between these two sides saw Finn Harps win 1-0 thanks to a slightly controversial penalty in a game that was otherwise totally devoid of any quality.
Finn Harps have only scored more than one goal in two games this season with the same stat applying to Longford. Neither side are yet to score more than two goals in a game this season with both clubs currently sitting on negative goal differences in the First Division standings.
To put it frankly, these are two average teams at best and we shouldn’t expect a classic when they face off on Friday night.
Finn Harps did have a positive result last time out when they came away from Wexford with all three points but their winning goal was an own goal while Longford Town failed to capitalise on their dominance against a below-par Bray Wanderers last weekend.
These are two clubs going through a transition at the moment and there’s likely to be little between them once again in this latest meeting.
Shamrock Rovers v Sligo Rovers
One of the League of Ireland’s most popular podcasts recently described Shamrock Rovers as being “terminator-like” in terms of how Stephen Bradley’s side goes about stringing together unbeaten and winning streaks that eventually lead them to title success and it looks like the Hoops are well on their way to doing likewise again this season with the four-in-a-row seekers currently on a six-match unbeaten run in all competitions (winning 4).
Last Friday’s comfortable sweeping aside of a St. Patrick’s Athletic team who had won their last four was a worrying sign for the rest of the league and Sligo Rovers very well could be the Champion’s next victim.
While Sligo Rovers played some lovely stuff in a 3-1 win at home to UCD, they were probably flattered slightly by the eventual scoreline against the league’s bottom team, and with inconsistency having hampered Sligo Rovers all season, it’s hard to see them backing up that result at the home of the Champions.
It took a red card and a 94th-minute goal for Sligo to earn a point at home to Shamrock Rovers on the opening day and with the Hoops having won four of their last five matches to nil they are looking like a far more composed outfit than they were in those early parts of the season and I expect them to show that maturity in front of their own fans here.
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