“We hope the personalities and ability of our players can shine through”

Keith Long 30/9/2018

IRN-BRU SCOTTISH CHALLENGE CUP QUARTER-FINAL
Bohemians v East Fife
Saturday February 2nd, Dalymount Park, 3pm

Keith Long believes his budding Bohemians will need the patient and encouraging support of the Dalymount Roar behind them to get over the line against East Fife today.

The Bohs manager also reckons people need a bit of a reality check if they think the Gypsies are going into today’s IRN BRU quarter-final as favourites to progress.

Entering into his fifth season at the helm, Long is now the longest-serving Bohemians manager in two decades and is on course to eclipse Turlough O’Connor’s longevity and become the club’s longest-serving manager since Billy Young, who managed the club with distinction for 16 years until 1989.

An away semi-final against Ross County on February 15 awaits the winners and while bullish of his new-look side’s ability, Long is wary that the timing of the fixture in respect of both teams’ seasons is weighted in the visitors’ favour.

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He said: “It’s going to be a tough game but we’re really looking forward to it. Even though we’re starting our season a bit earlier than other teams, it’s still been a long off-season so we hope there’ll be a big crowd behind us.

“It’s a quarter-final and a huge opportunity for us to progress and that’s what we want to do. We want to get to a final. It would huge for the club and the supporters.

“To do that, we need to play to our utmost ability and have our fans be patient and right behind us if the tie is in the balance.

“It’s going to be a measure of where we’re at as a team. The timing of this game presents mitigating factors against us.

“That’s not looking for excuses but you have to be realistic when you have so many new players. It can take time to gel and find our feet, so we hope the personalities and ability of our players can shine through.

“We know we are not the finished article but we have some excellent new young players in the team but there is still work to be done and we will continue to evolve.

“We’ve rebuilt our squad, this is our first competitive fixture. In many ways we are coming into this game undercooked in comparison to the opposition.

“They’re third in their league, they’re flying high and they’ll be coming over confident. They’re bang in-season and in a good run of form.

“In my mind they are coming over as favourites. The bookies mightn’t agree but reality suggests otherwise. It’s very much a new team coming up against a settled, confident one.

“That’s not being trying to play mind games or knocking ourselves at all. We have real quality and potential. It’s just a reflection of where both teams are in their respective seasons at the moment.”

Prior to beating Sutton United on penalties after a 0-0 draw at Dalymount in the last round, Bohs have played and beaten Scottish opposition in this tournament already.

In September, a much-changed Bohs team beat Peterhead with Kevin Devaney’s effort the only goal of the game.

That scoreline did not quite reflect Bohs’ superiority on the day but Long doesn’t believe there are many comparisons to be made between the opposition that day and what they face at Dalymount this afternoon.

East Fife are third in Scottish League 1 with Peterhead occupying the same position in their league – a division lower.

Long said: “East Fife are third and the teams ahead of them are full-time and with good budgets in Raith and Arbroath.

“We’ve played Scottish opposition already in this tournament but we only won 1-0, albeit in a game we dominated, against a Peterhead side who are a division lower

“There is going to be a quantum difference in the standard of East Fife in comparison.”

Bohs come into this game with mixed results performances in their three pre-season games played to date.

They kicked off their pre-season campaign with a 2-2 draw with Shelbourne at Abbotstown, followed it up with a 0-0 draw with the Defence Forces in Crumlin and appeared to find their groove with a 4-0 win against Longford Town at the AUL on Tuesday night.

Long said: “Pre-season can be misleading. It’s wrong to get carried away with results whether they’re good or bad as pre-season games are about a lot of things – getting minutes spread out across the players to try bring them up to speed, trying out different combinations and structures across the team and all that.

“We’ve shown quality in patches – most notably in the first half against Shelbourne and in the second half against Longford – but it would be wrong to read too much into those at this stage.”

TEAM NEWS

Kevin Devaney (groin) and Darragh Leahy (hip) are likely to sit this one out. Cristian Magerusan (cruciate) is facing a lengthy spell on the sidelines, while Scott Allardice is cup-tied having played for Dundee United’s U20s earlier in the competition.

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