ST. PATRICK’S ATHLETIC
The Saints come into the match against Sligo Rovers (kick-off 7:45pm) three points behind Shamrock Rovers and Sligo Rovers, who are top of the table on 31 points (the Hoops who play on Saturday are top on goals scored).
After enjoying a superb start to 2021, the Saints’ form took a small dip in May, where they won two of their six league games. A last-minute Dublin derby win against Bohemians came in between disappointing defeats to Shamrock Rovers, Drogheda United, and Dundalk.
However, Stephen O’Donnell’s side got back to winning ways last Saturday with a 3-1 win away to Longford Town, courtesy of strikes from Robie Benson, Mattie Smith and Ronan Coughlan.
A win on Friday would put Pat’s joint second on points with The Bit O’ Red, and is crucial if the Saints are to really challenge for the title towards the end of the season. Friday’s top of the table clash will also be the first time that Richmond Park has welcomed fans in 470 days, a prospect that is much welcome as the country begins to return to ‘normal’.
When the sides last met at the start of May, all three points looked destined to be Sligo’s until a 96th minute header from captain Ian Bermingham rescued a point for Pat’s.
Speaking to the Saints media team ahead of the clash, head coach Stephen O’Donnell looked forward to welcoming Pat’s supporters back home again and assessed his squads overall performances so far this season.
“It's been a long time coming getting supporters back in the ground so we are delighted to have our fans and no doubt they will give us a huge backing on Friday night because obviously they've been starved of live action themselves, so it’ll be a huge boost for our players’."
"I'm happy with the way the squad is going and how the players are developing, how the more experienced lads are leading it and the way the younger ones are developing so happily in that regard and as I said, the matches and the table will take on a life of its own. In regard to team ethos, team ethic and how we are developing as a squad, I am happy with how that’s going."
Shane Griffin remains out with a shoulder injury, while Sam Bone returns from suspension.
The Bit O’ Red come into Friday’s clash off the back of a disappointing 2-1 defeat to Drogheda United last Saturday. However, Liam Buckley’s side have been very impressive so far this season, with nine wins from 15 games. Before last Saturday, they went unbeaten in seven games, including a superb 1-0 win over the league champions at Tallaght Stadium. They have also enjoyed a superb away record this season, with six wins and a draw from their seven matches on the road.
David Cawley returns along with Regan Donelon and Romeo Parkes but Darren Collins remains out despite returning to training this week.
Rovers will be hoping to challenge for the title come the end of the season, and a win on Friday is crucial if they are to win their first since 2012. They also have European football to look forward to this season, after being drawn to face Icelandic side FH in the first qualifying round of the Europa Conference League.
They will play their first European games in seven years on July 8th and 15th, with the second leg at the Showgrounds.
Looking ahead to the clash, and reflecting on the conference league draw, manager Liam Buckley told his club’s media “It’s a European competition, and the financial rewards are there. It will help no end if you can get through a round or two, so I would be desperate for us to get through and take it from there. We have an opportunity. I'm expecting a tough game, no two ways about that.”
“We were disappointed last week in losing to Drogheda. We know we will not win every game, but we do want to play better.
“We want to respond to that and bounce back. Once the game is over, all you can do is put the focus on the response and we have an opportunity here.”
“It is a difficult one and we want to compete well. Pat’s will have a similar approach and it will be keenly contested certainly. They have had a good season and there’s just three points between the teams.”
Referee : Paul McLaughlin
There have been three draws in their previous five meetings, with the Saints winning twice.
Sligo Rovers have kept six clean sheets in 15 games this season compared to Pats’ five.
Jordan Gibson is the Bit O’ Red’s top scorer this season with five goals, while Ronan Coughlan has scored four goals for Pat’s.
St. Patrick’s Athletic 19/20; Draw 2/1; Sligo Rovers 3/1.
St. Patrick’s Athletic 1 - 1 Sligo Rovers
St Patrick’s Athletic
Injured: Shane Griffin
Doubtful: Gary Buckley
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