DUNDALK v BOHEMIANS
Friday April 21st, Oriel Park, 7.45pm
Keith Long believes the manner of Bohemians’ recent performances suggests there is light at the end of the tunnel.
Ravaged by injuries in recent weeks, Bohs have lost their last three league games against St Patrick’s Athletic, Sligo Rovers and Cork City.
That dip in form came on the back of a run that saw the Gypsies pick up 10 points from a possible 12 in their previous four games.
And manager Long reckons returning bodies can help his side return to form sooner rather than later.
He said: “We’ve shown in our performances against Sligo and Cork that we are not a million miles off.
“We felt our performances really deserved something out of those two games. We obviously need players back, but we are on the right road.”
Long’s side dominated Sligo in the middle of the park a fortnight ago but frustratingly could not find the back of net, while Karl Sheppard’s long-range dipping volley was a real sucker-punch last week after an otherwise impressive Bohs performance against Cork City.
Clinical Cork went on to score a second three minutes from time through Garry Buckley to secure their ninth league victory in a row and maintain their 100% start to the season.
But Long said: “It was a good display. That second goal put a gloss on the result for them.
“The first goal was a hard one for any keeper to save, but we could have done a bit better defensively in the build-up.
“The second goal was disappointing. It killed any chance we had of getting something out of the game.
“We spoke about mistakes at the back costing us again so we have to stop making them.
“That’s especially the case against Dundalk. If we don’t all do our jobs, they have the players who can expose you.”
Bohs’ chances in recent weeks have not been helped by the lack of a recognised goalscorer.
Ismahil Akinade has missed all of the league campaign to date after undergoing surgery to remove his spleen on March 1. He resumed training last week but is still some way off a return to action.
It had been hoped that Dinny Corcoran (knee), who has not featured since hobbling off against Galway United on St Patrick’s Day, would be ready to return but he will not be risked.
There was more positive news elsewhere though with Jamie Doyle, forced off early against St Pat’s three weeks ago with a quad injury, ready to return.
Midfielder Ian Morris, a real star in Bohs’ opening games of the season, could be set for his first league start in a month.
He has been eased back to action with 20 minutes off the bench against Cork and after playing the first 45 in Monday’s EA Sports Cup 3-1 defeat to Shamrock Rovers.
That loss saw Long keep faith with much of the experimental and youthful line-up that had beaten Cabinteely in the previous round.
Long said: “We made seven changes from the team that started in the league against Cork to the one that started against Rovers.
“We obviously had one eye on the Dundalk game but it was also important to reward the under-19 players who did so well against Cabinteely in the previous round.
“It was a huge step-up for them, playing against a full-strength Rovers team.
“It was never going to be easy against such an experienced line-up and we knew that. But the young lads deserved their chance and that experience so early in their careers will stand to them.
“We lost the game but how they fared bodes well for the future.”
Bohs’ bid to end their losing streak comes against a Dundalk side hurting from their shock defeat to Bray Wanderers last week and desperate to claw back the nine-point advantage Cork currently hold over them at the top of the table.
It’s a daunting task, but Long wants his side to embrace it.
He added: “We have to look after ourselves and our own performance. We’re going up thinking we can get something out of it.
“Dundalk don’t lose many in Oriel Park. We are going have to work hard, play for each other and embrace the challenge.
“It’s a tough test. Dundalk have new players and they will click eventually. We just have to do our best to make sure they don’t click against us.”
Jamie Doyle (quad) returns, while Ian Morris (knee) could be in line for first league start in a month.
Dinny Corcoran (knee), Ismahil Akinade (surgery to remove spleen) and Eoin Wearen (cruciate) remain out.