Tuesday 15 October 2019

'We have to start making home advantage count'

By Marcus Cavaroli

Having played four of the top five teams in the last 17 days, there is a glimmer of light at the end of the tunnel as Drogheda United prepare to host Longford Town this Friday.

While the meeting with the midlanders could hardly be classed as easy, the Boynesiders have a realistic chance of bringing to an end a run of seven games from which they've taken just two points and scored only four goals.

And while he is under no illusions about the task facing Drogheda against a Longford team who have held their own since being promoted as First Division champions, Alan Byrne feels the Drogs must seize the opportunity after a particularly arduous run of games.

'Let's pull no punches, the Longford game is a big game for us,' agreed the 31-year-old centre-half. 'They're one of the teams who are in the bottom half and we have got to be winning those games, especially at home.

'The two boys up front, Gary Shaw and David O'Sullivan, are undoubtedly the threats. They're the lads who get the goals.

'It'll be a tight game, but we played them here in the League Cup, we know most of the lads and hopefully we'll get back to winning ways.'

The last two games have reinforced the view in Byrne's mind that Drogheda aren't far away from making a breakthrough, and with Bray, Galway and Derry providing the opposition in the next three home games after Longford, Johnny McDonnell's charges have an opportunity to make United Park into something of a fortress before Dundalk's visit in early July.

'The mood in the camp wouldn't be bad,' Byrne insisted. 'Bohs and Dundalk beat us in the 90th minute and we came back against a decent Cork game and put them on the back foot and they only had four shots in the whole game.

'We know we're not a million miles away, but that extra inch, we just have to get there and we need to get there quick.

''We came close [on Friday], but we shouldn't have given away two silly goals in the first half and that's after killing us.

'Everyone as a unit wasn't best pleased to concede from a corner. It was a silly goal. The cross should have been stopped and there were three of us and one of him. Hopefully we'll get it right for this week.

'The second half was a completely different game because obviously they were going to drop off and we had to try and press, and it was a pity that we didn't get the goal a bit sooner.

'If we'd got it a bit quicker and put a bit of pressure on they might have got nervy with a few minutes to go, but it was too little too late I suppose.'

Byrne was delighted for young Lloyd Buckley that he scored his first senior goal against Cork and sees potential in the 18-year-old defender.

'He's a good lad who has a good attitude, knows the games and reads it very well,' he said. 'It comes natural to him and he's never under pressure because he reads the game so well.

'He's only young, so he's learning, but he has a good future and we'll try and help him as best we can.'

Overall, Drogheda's lowly league position and recent results point to a relegation battle in the months ahead, but Byrne is refusing to consider such a scenario at this stage.

'It's far too early to even think about things like that,' he said. 'A win [against Longford] would put us seventh and there's a long way to go, but we don't want it to turn into a rut so we want to make sure we get a victory at home.

'We've beaten Sligo at home and Bray away and so we know we can beat teams. For us at the moment it's about starting well and getting in front. Once we get in front, we'll be alright.'

Drogheda Independent