September 22, 2016
BOHEMIANS v LONGFORD TOWN
SSE Airtricity League, Dalymount Park, Friday September 23 2016, 7.45pm
Bohemians are in the top half of the table for the first time this season and manager Keith Long has challenged them to stay there.
Monday’s 1-0 over Wexford Youths at Dalymount Park saw the Gypsies jump from ninth place to sixth, leapfrogging Bray Wanderers, St Patrick’s Athletic and Galway United in the process.
Now overtaking Sligo Rovers is in the Gypsies’ sights as Long looks to emulate last season’s fifth-placed league finish.
He said: “We want to stay in the top half – and climb further too. Obviously we’ve played a couple more games than St Pat’s and one more than Galway United.
“But points on the board is the most important thing. We want to finish the season as strongly as we possibly can.”
Victory against Wexford Youths came on the back of successive defeats against league leaders Dundalk and, more disappointingly, Galway United.
Errors at the back cost Bohs in the 2-0 loss away to the Tribesman.
But with a fresh centre-back pairing of Ian Morris and Derek Prendergast, Bohs looked solid in defence on Monday as they claimed their 11th clean sheet in the league this season.
Long said: “Our hand was forced on against Wexford to a certain extent.
“Stephen Best was unavailable due to a problem with his teeth and braces. Three games in eight days might have been a lot to ask of Dan Byrne too.
“Ian Morris came in and he’s an extremely experienced player. We missed Derek Prendergast’s organisational skills down in Galway too.
“It wasn’t a great game but once we got our noses in front, we looked comfortable.”
Known for his regular goal-of-the-season contenders, the game was decided by an uncharacteristic tap-in from Kurtis Byrne.
Long said: “He got a bit of help from the goalkeeper too, he was disappointed with that! We joked afterwards that he needs to get more of those.
“But Kurtis doesn’t need to prove himself to everyone. He’s our top scorer with eight in the league and 14 in all competitions.
“I think at the start of the season he would have been aiming for double figures in the league so there’s plenty of time for him to do that now and more.
“I’ve said before that he’s more of a No 10 than a No 9 but with Izzy Akinade unavailable, he’s been asked to do a different job.”
Bohs face bottom side Longford Town who, last weekend away to Finn Harps, claimed their first victory since the opening day of the season.
Long added: “It was a deserved win for them by all accounts. That will give them renewed confidence.
“They know it’s now or never for them. They’re scrapping for points. We have to be ready for that and can’t be found wanting.”
Izzy Akinade (illness) remains out and is unlikely to feature again this season. Shane Supple (groin) is a doubt, while Stephen Best (dental) returns.