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Fenlon hoping to bring the big crowds back to Rovers

PAT FENLON hopes that a winning formula can lure the punters back through the turnstiles at Shamrock Rovers between now and the end of the season.

The Hoops are heading into a season-defining period, with a string of games in a very busy September which will have a major bearing on the immediate future of the club, with the triple aim of European qualification via the league, a League Cup final success and progress in the FAI Cup.

It's back to league action tonight, at home to Sligo Rovers, after last weekend's activity in the FAI Cup and Fenlon admits that the attendance for that Cup win over Longford Town - estimated at 1,400 - was not what he wants to see.

Rovers are averaging 1,800 fans for home games this season, well down on their league-winning seasons in 2010-11, though the Hoops were not helped by a fixture list this season which saw them play local rivals Bohemians and St Patrick's Athletic just once at home but away twice in the league.

"The crowd we had last week wasn't great and I would like to see more of our fans at our games," says Fenlon.

"I know I can't complain about it too much as it's up to me and the team to get people back into the ground, the best way to get fans into the stadium is by scoring goals and winning matches. We have a couple of big home games on the way, Sligo in the league tonight and then Dundalk in the FAI Cup in two weeks, hopefully we can get the attendances up and get more of our fans into the place."

But again, the calendar has not been kind to the club. In the space of a week at the end of September Rovers have three away games in a row. They kick off that run of away days with an EA Sports Cup final in Dundalk (Saturday), a re-fixed league game against Bohemians at Dalymount Park (Tuesday) and then a Friday night date away to St Patrick's Athletic, a match which could have a significant say in the race for a European place.

Fenlon admits that the month ahead, which sees Rovers compete on three fronts, will be a test of resources and energy but he is up for the battle.

"It's a lot of games in a short space of time," he says. "But I would rather be in the EA Sports Cup final than be out of it, I would prefer to be in the quarter-finals of the FAI Cup than be gone, and we still have a say in the league.

"It's not easy but it's up to me as manager to deal with it. It's a matter of getting the balance right between work and recovery, making sure the players are well prepared but also that they get time to recover after games."

While Rovers as a club have targets, there are also goals for the players in Fenlon's squad in terms of their long-term futures under Fenlon. It's a cliché to say that, with most of the squad out of contract at the end of this term, they are playing for their futures but for Fenlon, that is true across the board.

"Even the players who have a contract for next season have something to prove," says the Hoops boss. "Just because someone has a contract for next season does not mean he can relax, I want to see every player at the club work hard between now and the end of next season. That includes tonight as I expect a hard game from Sligo. They have not had the season they'd have wanted but they still have some very good players and they always have a point to prove when they play Shamrock Rovers."

Sligo boss John Coleman says: "We've drawn with Dundalk and Cork and the St Pat's game could have gone either way.

"We've played decent teams and the lads are looking forward to Friday's game to try to get another result."