Cobh Ramblers host Drogheda United at St. Colman’s Park on Saturday evening as the two sides go head-to-head in the first leg of the First Division play-off.
For Cobh and Drogheda fans alike, this matchup will bring back memories of the 2002/03 play-off semi-final between the sides, which Drogheda would win 3-2 on aggregate, before retaining their Premier Division status with another 3-2 aggregate victory in the play-off final, this time against Galway United.
Cobh Ramblers head into the first leg of this play-off tie against Drogheda United as the form team, after winning their last five league games of the season, with their last defeat coming away to Drogheda at the beginning of September.
Following wins over UCD, Waterford, Limerick and Cabinteely, it was Athlone who stood in the way of Cobh and a place in the play-off, which a win would guarantee. Cobh would get the win they needed, thanks to goals in either half from Eoin McGreevy and Matthew Whelan.
Stephen Henderson will be hoping his side can continue their impressive home record by extending an unbeaten record that stretches back to May. Since a 3-0 defeat to Limerick at St. Colman's Park on the May 7th , Cobh have won eight and drawn two of their ten competitive matches in league and cup competition.
In team news, Cobh will be without Chris McCarthy through suspension while Jason Abbott and Ben O'Riordan remain unavailable through injury.
However, in more positive news for the Rams, defender Charlie Fleming and midfielder Garry Comerford are again available to Stephen Henderson after the pair both served their suspensions in the game against Athlone.
Drogheda United travel to Cobh off the back of a 2-1 victory over UCD last Saturday, a result which saw the Boynesiders finish second in the First Division, securing a play-off spot while UCD finished fourth, outside the play-off spots.
In front of 1,087 spectators, the biggest crowd of the season at United Park, Marc Griffin gave Drogheda a first half lead before Mark Langtry equalised before the break for UCD. However, a 63rd minute strike from Adam Wixted would secure the victory for Drogheda.
“There was a lot of pressure on the players in front of a big crowd but they handled it very well and made the right decisions across the pitch. We scored at vital times in the game and I thought we were deserved winners,” Drogheda manager Pete Mahon told droghedaunited.ie.
Drogheda have won two of the four meetings between these sides this season. However, both of those victories were at United Park with the Louth side coming away from Cobh with a 1-1 draw and a 2-1 defeat in the two away games this season, and Mahon is expecting another tough task on Saturday.
“To be fair to Cobh, they’ve been on a fantastic run over the last few weeks and really ended the season very strongly. I’m not surprised at all that they have come this far as I fancied them to be challenging back in March and they’ve gone from strength to strength.”
“I’ve heard that they are expecting a big crowd tomorrow night and it should be a great game. Our goal is to make sure that the tie is still alive when we bring them back to United Park next Friday.”
In team news, other than the suspended Sean Brennan, who serves the second of a three game suspension, Pete Mahon has a full squad to choose from.
Referee: Andrew Mullally.
In the four meetings between the sides this season, Drogheda United have won two, both at United Park, while the two games at St. Colman's Park ended in a 1-1 draw and a 2-1 victory to Cobh respectively.
Despite finishing second and third in the First Division this season, Drogheda and Cobh were the 4th and 5th highest scorers in the league. Drogheda found the back of the net 42 times in 28 games compared to the 40 times Cobh have scored.
At the other end of the pitch, the two sides’ defensive records match their final league positions. Drogheda boasted the second best defence in the league, conceded 29 times in 28 games, while Cobh conceded 33.
Cobh Ramblers 11/8; Draw 23/10; Drogheda United 2/1.
Cobh Ramblers 1-1 Drogheda United.
Injured: Ben O’Riordan, Jason Abbott.
Suspended: Chris McCarthy.
Suspended: Sean Brennan.