Thursday 26 April 2018

Drogs keen to steal a march on the Saints

Marcus Cavaroli

Drogheda United have been fretting over dropped points in their last two games, but they're in a much better place than St Pat's going into this Friday's game at Richmond Park (7.45pm).

The Boynesiders trailed the Inchicore men in the table after seven games but have since lost just once in five matches and pulled four points clear of the Inchicore men as a result.

Against that backdrop, this week's clash gives Pete Mahon's team an opportunity to put significant distance between themselves and the bottom three teams and pile further pressure on his counterpart Liam Buckley.

Drogheda's frame of mind will be tested, given the way they took a 2-1 lead in the 90th minute against Galway last Friday, only to concede an equaliser straight from the restart, but confidence in the St Pat's camp will be fragile - especially on their own patch where they have lost four out of five league matches this season.

Mahon and Gill formed the St Pat's management team in 2009 and 2010 and were there long enough to know that Richmond Park can be an unforgiving place if Pats are struggling, and Gill is hopeful that Drogheda can start well and ensure the home fans get on the backs of their team from an early stage.

Speaking after training on Sunday, he said: 'Liam is under a lot more pressure than Pete [Mahon] because they're still a full-time outfit and although they are very tolerant fans normally, their patience is being tested at the moment.

'So we have to go there and impose ourselves on the game. We have nothing to fear and we shouldn't go there with any inferiority complex because, barring the Cork game, we have acquitted ourselves really well and we would have taken your hand off to be in this position after 12 games.

'We don't know what's going to happen [between now and the end of the season], but we will be competitive and give ourselves a chance of staying up.' Once again Drogheda are sweating on the release of the weekly suspensions list, with Gavin Brennan and Luke Gallagher understood to be close to being handed a one-match ban owing to a build-up of yellow cards. However, of the two flu victims who missed the Galway match, Killian Brennan trained on Sunday and Sean Thornton was expected to return on Monday, while Ryan McEvoy did a light session on Sunday as he continues his recovery from injury.

The news isn't so good on Colm Deasy as he was due to undergo a scan yesterday (Monday) after missing the last two matches with a knee problem. Pats are likely to have key striker Christy Fagan in their starting line-up as he continues his comeback from injury.

Meanwhile, asked about the chaotic finish at United Park on Friday, when Drogheda coughed up a last-gasp equaliser to Galway, Gill said he hoped that the Boynesiders would learn from that bitter experience how to close out games.

'We have a lot of young players and we didn't have Killian [Brennan] or Sean [Thornton] on the pitch, and when we scored and the board has gone up with two minutes to go, we should have taken it into one of the corners to celebrate.

'But in our youthfulness and inexperience we got caught up in the moment instead of being more clever and cute.

'It's difficult because we have a young group with 18, 19 and 20-year-olds and you are trying to improve them as players as well as trying to coach things into them, but they will learn from it.'

Gill acknowledged that Drogheda's performance level had dipped compared to the previous week against Sligo, but felt that might have been done to the different challenge posed by Galway United.

'I don't think it was as good a performance - probably because we were playing a different type of team. Sligo are more patient and we pressed them and caught them in possession a few times, but Galway are strong and play more direct and they don't let you press as much.

'We told them at half-time, try to play more direct and turn their defenders, but again there was some naivety on our part.'

Drogheda Independent