Rovers want to stay in front, Pat’s want to stay in touch
THERE will be no shortage of motivation on either side when defending champions Shamrock Rovers face St Patrick’s Athletic in the SSE Airtricity League Premier Division at Tallaght Stadium tomorrow night (kick-off 7.45pm).
Whereas Rovers will be hoping to keep themselves in pole position for a third consecutive top-flight crown, Pat’s are looking to take another giant step towards claiming a top-three finish at the end of the current campaign.
This would secure them European football for the second season running, although fourth place might be enough if Derry City defeat Shelbourne in the forthcoming FAI Cup decider.
The Candystripes currently occupy second spot in this year’s Premier Division and given their excellent form of late (six straight league wins without conceding a single goal), Rovers can ill-afford to lose ground in their latest Dublin derby against Pat’s on home soil.
While the Hoops are six points clear of Derry at the summit, their main rivals have a game in hand after being on FAI Cup duty last Sunday.
On the same day, Rovers were forced to share the spoils with Drogheda United at Head In The Game Park.
Graham Burke had edged Stephen Bradley’s men in front with a 26th minute goal, before former Shamrock Rovers ‘B’ player Chris Lyons fired back for the hosts prior to the interval.
This 1-1 draw helps to leave the door open to an extent for Derry and with Ruaidhri Higgins’ side coming to Tallaght on October 30, it could prove to be one of the more dramatic title races in recent years.
One plus for Bradley and his coaching staff in advance of tomorrow’s game is that they haven’t had to worry about striking a balance between their domestic and European commitments, given they won’t be back in Conference League group stage action until this day week.
Nevertheless, they will be encountering a Pat’s side that are brimming with confidence following their back-to-back wins over Dundalk and Bohemians in the past fortnight.
Having earned a 2-1 victory against the former at Oriel Park on October 7, goals from Serge Atakayi, Mark Doyle and Tunde Owolabi propelled them towards a 3-1 triumph over Bohs in Inchicore last Friday.
The Saints are now just one point adrift of third-place Dundalk in the league standings and will be doing their utmost to usurp the Lilywhites in the closing weeks of the season.