There are two rearranged games taking place in the League of Ireland this evening as Dublin rivals Shelbourne and St.Patrick’s Athletic face off in what could be a fiery Premier Division Dublin Derby while in the First Division, two promotion rivals face off at Bishopsgate where Longford Town host Waterford FC.
Starting with the game at Tolka Park, this is a fixture that has been shrouded in controversy after St.Patrick’s Athletic failed to make it back from Bulgaria in time to play the original fixture earlier in the season. Pats had been on the continent to play CSKA Sofia in the Conference League but issues with their return charter flight meant they had to ask for the postponement of this fixture. To say Shelbourne were unhappy with the situation would be an understatement with both clubs battling it out behind closed doors with the FAI over the outcome of a disciplinary hearing. Eventually, it was agreed the game would be refixed for tonight with no further consequences handed down. There’s no doubt a bad taste has been left in the mouth of both sets of supporters towards one another and we should get a spicy affair as a result.
St.Pat’s stunning five-match winning streak was ended on Friday night by title-chasing Derry City and with Dundalk beating their local rivals Drogheda, there is no a five-point gap between Pats and Dundalk who occupy the league’s final automatic European spot. Dundalk host St.Pat’s on Friday with this being the Dublin clubs game in hand, so a win tonight is absolutely crucial to Pats European hopes.
St.Pat’s are of course the reigning FAI Cup winners but they can only claim to be for another month or so with Pats dumped out at the first hurdle in this season’s competition. Shelbourne fans will be hoping the famous old trophy makes the short trip across to the Tolka Park trophy room with the Reds safely into the FAI Cup semi-finals. In the league, Shelbourne have been long safe in mid-table and they go into tonight’s game having drawn their last two. In fact, Shelbourne have drawn three of their last four Premier Division matches which is a good indication of the sort of season they’ve had under Damien Duff.
The Drumcondra men are a well-organised outfit who aren’t overly pleasant to play against but they can lack a killer instinct in front of goal, scoring less than a goal a game so far this season (26 goals in 30 games). For contrast, Pats have scored 43 league goals this season and will have to be on the front foot again tonight given the prize they are chasing.
Shelbourne’s cause to add to their relatively weak goal tally has not been helped by an injury to star creative midfielder, Jack Moylan. In fact, in the 1-1 draw away to Finn Harps on Friday, Damien Duff was forced to start two midfielders up front in the shape of Shane Farrell and Matty Smith.
St.Pat’s manager, Tim Clancy also has a major headache to contend with as the in-form Chris Forrester is suspended for tonight’s game having been sent off in injury time against Derry on Friday. Clancy will need the rest of his attacking players to step up with Forrester a regular feature on the scoresheet in recent weeks. With the prize that is on offer for St.Pat’s, I fancy them to get the job done.
VERDICT: St.Pat’s win (5/4)
In the First Division, Waterford FC will leapfrog Galway United into second should they claim a third consecutive league win in Longford tonight. The Blues are riding the crest of a wave at the moment with new owner Andy Pilley injecting a fresh enthusiasm into the club while on the pitch, Waterford have a real chance of not only promotion but also a place in the FAI Cup final. In Phoenix Patterson, Waterford undoubtedly have the best player in the division among their ranks with the Scotsman firing on all cylinders in front of goal.
Longford Town are in a good place too, unbeaten in seven league games and already assured of a place in the play-offs, Gary Cronin’s men will be looking to repeat their 2-1 win against Waterford from a few months ago. However, that late win came before Pilley took charge at the RSC and with Longford missing a few key players presently, Waterford deserves to start tonight’s game as favourites despite being away from home (23/20).
The absence of flying full-backs Shane Elworthy and Dylan Barnett has been evident in De Town’s last two games as they played out fairly uninspiring draws against Treaty United and Athlone Town. Having picked up some further knocks in Friday’s Midlands derby away to Athlone, Waterford may be able to show their class.
VERDICT: Waterford -1 (3/1) NAP.