Bray Wanderers v Longford Town (Division 1)
An Irish pundit described Bray as “one of the most boring teams in the history of football” at the weekend and he might not be far wrong, despite a six game unbeaten run. Three of those six matches have ended scoreless, while they’ve won just two of their nine games, scoring five times. If you’re looking for entertainment then the Carlise Ground probably isn’t the best starting point.
Longford Town on the other hand have been something of a surprise package under former Bray boss Gary Cronin with Cronin’s side losing just once this season in seven matches. That defeat came against Bray but Longford could have been out of sight after twenty five minutes only for a combination of woeful finishing and uncomposed defending to blot their copybook.
Since then, Town have improved no end, although finishing chances and putting teams to bed is still a problem. Longford had the weekend off having played and won on Tuesday (2-0 v Cobh) while Bray made a grueling trip to Turners Cross and came away with an impressive 0-0 against the league leaders Cork City.
It doesn’t matter if they are home or away, Bray approach every game the same way. That approach being strangling the life out of it.
With Longford in good form and very much in the title race, you’d have to fancy them but the fact they just aren’t clinical is a concern and with both defences conceding a combined tally of just nine goals, it’s fair to suggest this may not be a classic by the Sea.
UCD v St.Patrick’s Athletic (Premier Division)
UCD are already starting to look like last season’s Longford Town. A newly promoted team full of young talent trying to play the right way but just totally out of their depth at this level. A sixth defeat of the season on Friday night against potential relegation rivals Drogheda sees the Students sitting bottom and still without a win this year.
Once again UCD failed to trouble the scoresheet, they’ve now drawn blanks in seven of their ten matches while they’ve conceded a joint worst tally of 18 goals. That is a toxic combination that will undoubtedly lead to relegation unless they can find a way to remedy the problems at at least one end of the pitch if not both.
Meanwhile, St.Pat’s are now on a four match winless streak (2D, 2L) following Friday’s Dublin derby defeat against Shamrock Rovers (1-0). That means the Saints have failed to score in their last two with supporters questioning Tim Clancy’s approach.
The new Saints boss has some attacking options to die for but the fact Eoin Doyle has scored just twice tells you Pats are not getting the best out of the former Bolton striker. It’s been strange to see Tunde Owolabi featuring in the under-19’s as an overage player of late. The signing of the former Finn Harps striker had many Pats supporters excited but with Clancy sticking with a front three of Darragh Burns, Eoin Doyle and Mark Doyle, chances have been limited for Tunde Owolabi.
Clancy needs to find a way to get more out of his best attacking talent and this appeals as a fixture where the Pats boss may be able to try a few things. Pats should dominate the ball and will be coming up against a defence low on confidence.
Despite the feeling that Clancy may need to mix things up, it was the two Doyle’s who put UCD to the sword earlier this season in a 2-0 win at Richmond Park. The fact that UCD’s last league win over the Saints was over ten years ago suggests that no matter what XI Tim Clancy opts for, anything other than a win will have the Pats boss in boiling hot water with his supporters.
Finn Harps v Sligo Rovers (Premier Division)
Finn Harps produced a miraculous recovery in Dalymount Park on Friday night as the Donegal men came from behind with nine men to secure a 2-2 against Bohemians. It was the kind of us against the world performance that has made Harps boss Ollie Horgan a hero in that part of the world but attention must now quickly turn to a derby day meeting with Sligo Rovers.
The Bit O’Red were tragic in Oriel Park on Monday with a 2-1 scoreline glossing over what was truly a dreadful performance. That defeat extends Sligo’s winless run to five matches and if they play anything like they did against Dundalk then this will become a lengthy winless streak and Liam Buckley will be seeking new employment.
The kind of fight Harps displayed in Dalymount is exactly what Sligo are missing at the moment with the mentality of this Sligo squad having been in question last season as they struggled to come to terms with their swift European exit. It seems whatever issues hit the Sligo dressing room after that are back again and they could hardly have a tougher mental test now than a trip to the ultimate “difficult place to go” in Finn Park.
While Harps are yet to win at home this season they’ve only lost in front of their own fans in games against the league’s top three (Derry, Shamrock Rovers and St.Pat’s) and are sure to make this a tough night at the office for a Sligo side totally devoid of confidence.
Shamrock Rovers v Dundalk (Premier Division)
Three wins on the spin now for Shamrock Rovers combined with Derry’s shock defeat at home to Shelbourne on Friday has seen the Hoops cut the gap at the top to just three points. In fact, since losing two in three against Derry City & St.Pat’s (both by the odd goal), Rovers have strung together an unbeaten run of six matches. That run includes a drab scoreless draw away to Dundalk.
The Lilywhites are now unbeaten in three (2W1D) but in truth they haven’t really found anything approaching top gear yet this season. An overall record of 2W6D1L indicates Stephen O’Donnell’s side are motoring along ok but they have failed to sparkle in front of goal. Twelve goals in ten games is a respectable return but they could do with creating a few more chances. On Friday, they played a dreadful Sligo Rovers team and only won 2-1 when a more clinical side would have put a few past the Bit O’Red.
That lack of cutting edge is a concern as is an injury to midfield maestro Robbie Benson. If Benson is to be out for a significant period it will not aid Dundalk’s task of creating more clear cut chances in the final third.
While they have improved defensively, Dundalk still look vulnerable in the full-back areas and this is something the likes of Danny Mandriou, Rory Gaffney and Aaron Greene can exploit on Easter Monday.
With the Hoops now smelling blood in the water after Derry City’s wobble on Friday, expect them to come out of the blocks quickly and look to test a Dundalk side who are still very early on in the Stephen O’Donnell rebuild project at Oriel Park.
The class of Champions may just shine through with the Hoops on a good run of form and feeling confident again.
Written by an Andy verified content writer
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