THERE ARE TWO Airtricity League fixtures down for decision tonight as the season winds to a close.
First up, Brian Laws takes his resurgent Shamrock Rovers side to face Bray Wanderers at the Carlisle Grounds (7.45).
The seagulls have gone six games without a win since their shock victory away to title-chasing St Patrick’s Athletic. It is eight games since Pat Devlin’s side tasted victory on home turf, though they have yet to be beaten by the Hoops this season following 2-2 and 0-0 scorelines thus far.
Laws will be hoping his side can continue the form which saw them fire seven past Dundalk last week, a result which was the Englishman’s first win in charge.
“We were excellent,” Laws told the club website, “and set the bar for the rest of the season; I won’t accept anybody falling under that level for the rest of the season. We need to go out there and get another win on Friday night.”
The Hoops only injury fresh concerns are Shane O’Connor (hamstring ) and Colin Hawkins (thigh) though Graham Gartland and Conor Winn remain long-term absentees with back injuries.
Wanderers’ own Shane O’Connor will also miss out. The defender picked up a groin injury in against Drogheda United and will be joined by John Mulroy (also groin).
Devlin, whose side won two and lost two against Rovers last season, vowed to “give it a go” against the soon-to-be dethroned champions, adding to BrayWanderers.com: “Games between Bray and Rovers are always good games, and at this stage of the season there is still a lot at stake.”
Down south, Cork City host table-topping Sligo Rovers (8pm)with the visitors looking to re-open their eight point lead at the summit.
The north-westerners will be without Alan Keane (metatarsal), Danny North (cruciate ligament) and Iarfhlaith Davoren (heel) while the Leesiders only squad restrictions will be down to suspension.
Davin O’Neill has been suffering from flu this week, but the forward is likely to at least make the bench. Gearóid Morrissey serves the second of his two-match ban, but the City can welcome back Ian Turner who has served his own suspension.
City are unbeaten in three games, but the Bit O’Red’s last defeat came at the beginning of August and manager Tommy Dunne is bracing his side to face ‘the best team in the league” and knows Cork must be at their very best to get anything from the game:
“Although we are at home, we are under no illusions that it will be a very tough game. In our last meeting with Sligo (a 2-2 draw at the Showgrounds) they were very good. We got a result on that occasion, though we will need to be better than we were in that game if we are looking to win this match.”
Rovers boss Ian Baraclough said: “Turner’s Cross has a lot of history, we are bringing a large travelling support and there will be a good atmosphere. With the added expectation on us and the (Setanta) television cameras present, I think Cork will try to put on a good performance for their fans.”