Break is just what the Drogs ordered ahead of crunch clash
Drogheda United director of football Dave Robertson believes the two-week break before the crunch league clash against Longford Town is perfect timing as the Boynesiders take stock following Friday's heavy defeat by UCD.
The 3-0 reverse followed three consecutive draws against teams in the bottom half of the table and a narrow home win over rock-bottom Athlone Town before that, and the hope is that the squad will be re-energised by the time they host Neale Fenn's side on Friday week.
Longford do have the distraction of an FAI Cup quarter-final tie against Cork City this week, but they are riding on the crest of a wave after winning five games in a row and will be many people's favourites to win at United Park, thereby condemning the Drogs to another season in the First Division.
Tim Clancy has been handed a four-game touchline ban following his sending-off in the aftermath of Drogheda's FAI Cup defeat by Waterford and his subsequent outburst about League of Ireland match officials, so his assistant Kevin Doherty will take charge of the dugout for the two remaining league games and the two-legged 4th/3rd play-off match should the Boynesiders get that far.
They will also have Sean Brennan suspended next week after he was dismissed near the end of the first half last Friday night, as well as Kevin Farragher who serves one match for reaching five bookings.
The suspensions will once again put a strain on the players who are selected, with few experienced options available on the bench, and in the circumstances Robertson is happy that the Boynesiders are without a fixture this week.
'With this being an FAI Cup week, it's given us a break before our final push for the play-off places and it's come at an excellent time for the players - to recover in this first week and then have a full week to prepare for the Longford game,' agreed Robertson, speaking on Monday afternoon.
'There's an intrinsic motivation in the players, apart from UCD last week they have always turned up in all the big games and we would expect a positive response from them for the Longford game. 'The positive thing is that the play-off positions are still in our own hands.'
Referring to the ban handed out to Clancy, Robertson tried to play down its impact and insisted his own role wouldn't change despite the manager's absence from the dugout for four games. 'It's a little bit of a blow [to lose Tim], but it's something we have to deal with and manage.
The one good thing is that Kevin Doherty is an experienced manager as well who can step in and cover these few games until such time as Tim is back.
'I will be in and around the place in an advisory capacity doing whatever Tim and Kevin want me to do. 'They've done a magnificent job this year and we've come a long way in the first 25 games, plus the cup competitions, and the players have put themselves in a good position.'
Defeating UCD would have put Drogheda in a considerably better position going into the Longford game, but in the end the Students were worthy winners as they themselves took a big step towards the title and automatic promotion. Robertson said: 'I feel the way we started the game was very positive.
We were on the front foot and created some good chances and I felt the game was in the balance - two very good sides competing in what was a big game for both of us.
'When Sean got sent off it had a big impact on the overall outcome, and it was a double blow to concede so soon after losing him.
'In fairness to Tim, he went on the front foot in the second half. There was nothing to lose and he went with two up front and had a real go at it.'