Having met in the FAI Cup just six days ago at the City Calling Stadium, Cork City and Longford Town face off once again with the Midlanders seeking to avenge that 4-1 defeat when they travel to Turner's Cross for the televised game on RTÉ (kick-off 7:45pm).
A combination of European/FAI Cup football and recent poor results means City enter this game without a Premier Division win since July 10th when they defeated Wexford Youths 1-0 at Ferrycarrig Park thanks to a Garry Buckley goal.
City are yet to pick up a league win in August, having lost to Sligo Rovers at Turner's Cross (2-1) and being held to scoreless draws at home by Bohemians and at the Brandywell by Derry City, the latter side sitting one point above the Rebel Army in second place, albeit with three games more played.
With Dundalk losing back-to-back games for the first time since 2013 whilst in the midst of their own European run, City boss John Caulfield will be aware that his side has perhaps passed up a golden opportunity in picking up just two points from their last three league games. They are four points off the Premier Division champions and current league leaders.
However, Caulfield was happy with his side's performance against Longford in last week's FAI Cup tie and believes City are in an excellent position coming into the business end of the season.
“We had a difficult ten days, we hadn’t scored from the chances we created,” Caulfield told CorkCityFC.ie. “On Saturday, we played well and created chances [against Longford], as we had been doing, but, more importantly, we took them. We are back to league action Friday night; it is a huge game, we are at home, it’s live on TV and we are all looking forward to it.
“There are 13 games to go in the league, we are four points off top and we are in a fantastic position. We’ve played six European games, we are in the quarter finals of the cup and it is all to play for in the league. We are right in there, but we need a win on Friday night.”
City will have to make do without the services of Danny Morrissey, John Dunleavy and goalkeeper Alan Smith, while there are also doubts about the availability of Steven Beattie, Alan Bennett and Garry Buckley.
However, long-term injury victim John Kavanagh comes back into contention having featured in the friendly against Oman, while Ian Turner and Dave Mulcahy are also available again having missed the cup fixture last week.
With Longford Town all but relegated, they have turned to former manager Alan Mathews to try and save them – but with just one win in their 24 league games this season, it could be a case of too little, too late for the Midlanders.
They sit bottom of the table at present, eight points behind Wexford Youths in the promotion/relegation play-off spot and 13 points from Finn Harps in the safety of tenth place. Longford have the leakiest defence in the Premier Division (they have conceded 52 goals to date) and only Bray Wanderers and Finn Harps have scored less goals (Longford have scored 18 times; Harps and Bray have 17 goals).
Recent signings by Tony Cousins, such as Yann Mvita Nkelu, Gaius Makouta and Eddie Dsane, have been unable to stop the rot which eventually led to the resignation of Cousins. This was followed by the appointment of Mathews who led Longford to two FAI Cups and one League Cup during his previous spell in charge between 2002 and 2007.
“I am delighted to be back at the club and am very grateful to the Chairman Jim Hanley and the committee for the opportunity,” Mathews said after the news was announced. “I look forward to working with the players and staff.
“There is still a lot of football to be played between now and the end of the season and I can assure the fans that we will do everything possible to retain our Premier Division status in the SSE Airtricity League.”
With Gary Cronin overseeing first-team duties last week, City boss Caulfield is expecting to face a more resilient Longford team to the one which shipped four goals at the City Calling Stadium as Mathews takes charge for the first time on Friday night.
“We expect quite a number of changes from Longford. Obviously, Alan [Mathews] was appointed just before the cup game and he didn’t take charge of the team last weekend,” Caulfield told CorkCityFC.ie. “They have a number of players to come back in and I would expect a totally different team to face us on Friday night.
“Knowing Alan, he’s an experienced manager and he builds from the back, so we expect them to be very solid defensively. We expect they will come down to hit us on the counter, so I don’t think last Saturday’s game will have any relevance on Friday.”
Mathews' couldn't have asked for a sterner first test than Cork City, though, and he will have to plan for this without the services of the experienced Noel Haverty and Town's record goalscorer David O'Sullivan who are both injured. However, goalkeeper Ryan Coulter returns after suspension.
Referee: Paul McLaughlin.
Longford Town have won just five of 39 league meetings with Cork City and just once in the last ten – the 3-2victory at Turner's Cross towards the end of last season, a result which contributed to Longford beating the drop.
In those 39 league games, Cork City have scored 64 goals while Longford have found the net just 29 times.
Longford have won just once in 24 Premier Division games this season: the 2-0 victory over Wexford Youths at Ferrycarrig Park on the opening day.
Cork City 1/7; Draw 13/2; 14/1.
Cork City 2-1 Longford Town.
Injured: Danny Morrissey (hamstring), John Dunleavy, Alan Smith.
Doubtful: Steven Beattie, Alan Bennett, Garry Buckley.
Injured: Noel Haverty, David O'Sullivan.