“They’ve really improved. You only have to look at their league position to know they’re a different prospect for any side this season compared to last season.
“But we’re at home so it’s up to us to go out and give a performance.”
Six places and 12 points separate the sides going into Friday’s game. But despite the gulf, there wasn’t all that much in it when the sides met at The Brandywell in April.
A first-half Rory Patterson gave Shiels’ men a 1-0 victory. But as has often been the case this season, the Gypsies were frustrated, feeling they should have got something out of the game.
Long said: “There wasn’t a huge amount in the game. Kurtis Byrne had a great a chance and really should have scored.
“Both teams were very competitive and I expect it will be the same on Friday.”
Bohs come into this game after a bruising Dublin derby defeat to Shamrock Rovers.
Having saved an early penalty and taken the lead with only ten men, Bohs’ luck ran out as they eventually went down 3-1 – a scoreline that arguably flattered the hosts.
Long said: “The timing of Keith Buckley’s sending-off was unfortunate. We had started the game poorly and Dean Delany got us out of jail with the penalty save. But we were starting to get into it.
“We still managed to get ahead despite being a man down and it was a great finish by Kurtis Byrne.
“But defensively we were too easy to play against. Ultimately Rovers didn’t have to work too hard for their goals and that’s very disappointing.
“Up front we were culpable too – we missed some great opportunities and could have gone in level at half-time.
“We came back into it in the second half but we had to take Izzy Akinade off as a precaution when he took a knock to the head.
“He was making life difficult for Rovers and we lost some of our attacking threat when he had to come off.”
Long’s options are severely hampered by suspension and injury concerns.
Buckley serves a one-game ban after his dismissal against Rovers.
But there are big doubts over the fitness of Ayman Ben Mohamed, who has been limited to a bit-part role in recent weeks due to an ongoing niggling groin injury, Eoin Wearen (hamstring), Dylan Hayes (ankle) and Derek Pender (quad).
Definitely still out is Stephen Best (knee), while Lorcan Fitzgerald (ankle) looks set to miss out again too.
Better news for Bohs, however, is the return of Paddy Kavanagh (ankle).