2nd from top play 2nd from bottom as Shamrock Rovers aim to keep their title hopes alive when they face Drogheda United in Sunday’s afternoon game.
The games have been coming thick and fast for Michael O’Neill’s men of late and with Thursday’s 3-1 Europa League defeat against Spurs fresh in their mind, O’Neill and his assistant Jim Magilton will need every trick in the book to boost the players for the final few weeks of the domestic season.
Rovers put on a gutsy display at White Hart Lane and took the lead through Stephen Rice early in the second half however the gulf in class was too much for the Hoops and Spurs eventually moved up a gear to secure the points.
Despite their exit from the FAI Ford cup at the hands of Sligo not to mention the harsh realities of life in the Europa League, two group defeats so far, Rovers have lost just one of their last 8 league games and have taken 19 points to move level on points with Sligo at the top.
Meanwhile after the improvements in August that saw Drogheda take 7 points from a possible 12 it was back to the sadly more familiar form in September for Mick Cooke’s as they picked up just a solitary point and conceded 12 goals. The 5-4 defeat away to UCD perhaps the most difficult one to take although the 2-2 draw with Derry showed that if they turn up they cause problems for the bigger sides.
With 5 games remaining there is a still a mathematical possibility that Galway could catch them at the bottom and with the two sides set to meet next week at Terryland Cooke could be forgiven for having his head elsewhere on Sunday.
O’Neill’s won 3-0 when the sides met in Tallaght in May, and 4-0 when they clashed in Louth although their most recent encounter, at the Hunky Dorey stadium in August, was a closer fought affair which the hoops edged 1-0 thanks to an injury time goal from Gary Twigg.
Sunday’s clash should follow a similar vein with Rovers hoping to get the points that keep the pressure on Sligo, given the tension at the top, the goal difference column could play a vital part in proceedings and O’Neill could be tempted to introduce the likes of Karl Sheppard, Ciaran Kilduff and Rohan Ricketts to his starting line up
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