PREVIEW: BOHEMIANS v SLIGO ROVERS

Bohemians v Sligo Rovers
SSE Airtricity Men’s Premier Division
Friday June 2 2023, Dalymount Park, 7.45pm
Tickets: tickets.bohemians.ie

Declan Devine’s Bohemians have worked hard to remain in the mix at top of the table but he has told his players they are going to have to work even harder to stay there.

Bohs have been frustrated in recent games and have gone without a win in four games. But the two teams of them have dropped points too, meaning Devine’s men are just four points off the top and with a game in hand.

Devine said: “I am delighted with where we are. I am delighted with who we brought in during our first transfer window. I am delighted with the group and what the group is bringing to the table.

“But it is key that week by week, we strive to get better and keep trying to pick up as many points as we possibly can.

“With three games this week, we have got to target getting as many points on board as possible. Bottom line is everybody in this league is taking points off each other and that’s the way the league is.

“There are no poor teams. There are teams that are capable on their day of winning. We have got to be completely focused and completely driven to perform.

“We have to have the same determination and focus on the same drive to get the maximum points from every game that we play.

“We’re not looking too far ahead. We have just got to understand that we are in the mix at this moment in time and we have to do everything to stay there.

“We have got to make sure we win our home game before we have two difficult away games in the coming weeks.”

They couldn’t find a way to break through a dogged defensive display by Shelbourne last time out and were held to a scoreless draw.

Devine said: “We knew going into the game that was the way they would set up. It’s not just ourselves who finds it very difficult to break them down. That’s just their style of play and it’s frustrating at times.

“But we have to be better in the final third. That’s the reality. We have to find a way of breaking teams down with our final pass or final ball.

“That will be the challenge again on Friday because Sligo have kept clean sheets at home to Derry and they will be looking to build on that.

“We also need to get back to winning ways and we are under no illusions. The last four games, to only pick up two points, we are fully aware that we have to get back on track in terms of getting wins, especially at home.

“It doesn’t matter who we’re playing on Friday. It’s key that we go after maximum points because it has been four or five weeks now since we achieved that.

“Some of the performances have been good but give me three points – that’s the ultimate goal, and that’s what we have got to be going after. There’s no point dressing it up any other way.’’

Bohs have already beaten Sligo this season – Krystian Nowak’s late effort the only goal of the game when the sides met in the Showgrounds in April.

Devine said: “The game down there was very tough. The surface wasn’t great and that affected both teams. Sligo like to play a good brand of football as well.

“I was at their game on Saturday night. Sligo are a good team. They’ve got good players, and they have recruited well in the last window.

“They will have been disappointed with the wee dip they had that any team can have. But they answered that emphatically with a magnificent win against Derry.

“I thought they were fully deserving of their win, so that in itself shows the capabilities of Sligo Rovers.

“But we are more than a match for anybody on our day as well. I am delighted with where the players are but now is the time to step up again, and try and collect as many points as we possibly can.

“It’s going to be extremely difficult but the pitch is in beautiful nick and we want to go play the brand of football I think that we are now starting to establish.

“I think we’re very positive in the way that we play. I think we create chances but we have got to make sure we get on the end of things and be more clinical.”

Bohs were boosted with the return off the bench of James Akintunde last week – his creative spark was sorely missed during his nine-game lay-off with a hamstring injury.

Devine added: “I think James is irreplaceable to be honest. He’s the type of player that can play three or four different positions, has the ability to hold the ball up, and has the ability to play.

“He gives the rest of the team a lot of confidence. He’s such a brilliant person and an energetic person. He lifts everybody’s spirits and having him back in last week was fantastic to see because we really must.

“Any team would miss James Akintunde for what he brings. I have full trust in him that he will come in and give everything but we have to be careful that we don’t rush him back by doing too much too soon.

“He is in contention to play but how long he gets or whether he comes off the bench is something we have to monitor.”

TEAM NEWS

Keith Buckley returns from suspension but James McManus serves a one-match ban.

Dean Williams (ankle) is likely to be sidelined for a number of weeks, Dylan Connolly (ribs) remains out, while Johnny Afolabi (ankle) is a doubt.

Preview: Bohemians v Shelbourne

SSE Airtricity Men’s Premier Division
Friday May 26 2023, Dalymount Park, 7.45pm, RTÉ2

Declan Devine has said Bohemians cannot afford to switch off for a split second in tonight’s Dublin derby against Shelbourne at Dalymount Park.

Bohs go into tonight’s game in third place after defeats against Shamrock Rovers and Derry City and a draw against Dundalk saw them knocked off their perch in recent weeks.

They look to get back to winning ways in tonight’s televised game against Shels.

Devine said: “As a new group, and when we look where we are and look at the success and failures over the course of the opening 17 games, we certainly would have taken where we are right now.

“But there was always going to be room for improvement. Away to Dundalk, 2-0 down at halftime to draw 2-2 is a great point. Losing to Derry at home with a man down for 75 minutes, I can understand why, and the decisions in Tallaght didn’t go our way.

“There have been very fine margins in those games but it is ultimately about points. And as I said in Drogheda a few weeks ago, I would take winning ugly than losing beautifully.

“We are disappointed in the points returned in the last three games. But we also have to take account of those three teams. Those three teams were top and joint second last year – Shamrock Rovers won the league and Derry and Dundalk Dundalk were tied on points.

“So we have to understand what we’re playing against and where we’re coming from, but we’re under no illusions we want to be better.

“We want to be having more points on board but we are also only a few points off the top of the tablet table with a game in hand. We have to remember that.

“We have to treat these next four games as hugely important in terms of trying to get points on the board. But we have won games where we weren’t expected to win that thankfully has us right up there.’’

The last time these sides met, Bohs, down to 10 men following the sending-off of Dylan Connolly, saw their unbeaten start to the season come to an abrupt end with a 1-0 defeat at Tolka Park.

Devine said: “I think the disappointment after losing at Tolka was evident in our players and their body language and their mindset that week. We spoke about it this week. The sending-off was a huge turning point again in that game. But these games are in the past.

“We have analysed Shels. We’ve seen what their strengths are. We know what our strengths are going into this game. And we have got to make sure that every single game we play, regardless of who they are against, that we give the best of ourselves.

“It has to be about ourselves going into this game that we play at the levels we are capable of for 95/96 minutes.

“We can’t afford to switch off for a split second, which we have done the last couple of games and got severely punished.

“We have to understand that every game in this league is a tough game. Dublin Derby or not a Dublin Derby, it’s always gonna be tough games.

“Everybody is capable of beating everybody as we’ve seen them in the last week or two. It is as strong as a Premier Division as I’ve seen in a long time.

“But we’ve got to take tremendous confidence from the fact that we’ve started the season so well and that we’re right at the top end of the table.’’

Devine is conscious too of how important it is to make a strong start to tonight’s game. Early mistakes have cost Bohs in recent weeks.

He added: “We can’t take the foot off the gas irrelevant of who we play. Every game is nearly a derby and we’ve got to make sure that we compete in every single moment.

“I don’t think we started at home to Derry or away to Dundalk well and ended up giving ourselves a mountain to climb to try to get back into the games.

“Our last three games are certainly an aspect that we have to learn from. We have got to start games more positively.

“Even going back to the game against Cork earlier this month. James Talbot had to make a really good save after two or three minutes to stop us going behind.

“It’s something that’s noted, it is something we’ve spoken about and hopefully we rectify against Shelbourne.’’

TEAM NEWS

Dean Williams (ankle) is out while Keith Buckley is suspended. James Akintunde (hamstring) is back in contention.

PREVIEW: DUNDALK v BOHEMIANS

SSE Airtricity Men’s Premier Division
Friday May 19 2023, Oriel Park, 7.45pm

Bohemians boss Declan Devine says he believes his side are capable of beating anyone in this league when they bring their best to the party.

Bohs go into tonight’s game after successive defeats for the first time this season and are looking to get back to winning ways against Dundalk at Oriel Park.

Devine’s side faced an uphill struggle against Derry City last week after being reduced to 10 men on 14 minutes when Grant Horton was given his marching orders.

The Candystripes duly turned the screw two minutes later when former Bohemian Ryan Graydon scored the only goal of the game.

Bohs were disappointed that they could not get anything out of the game despite a much-improved second-half performance.

Devine said: ”From our point of view, I couldn’t have asked more of our players last week. The sending-off of Grant was devastating for us so early in the game and it affected us.

”We know that we have to learn from that. If we suffer any type of setback we can’t let another one happen, which is what happened when we conceded.

‘’But the players showed hunger and desire to go after the game and, apart from that crazy four or five minutes, I can’t fault the players.

‘’Every single one put in some shift against a side that has been building to challenge for a league title for a number of years now.

”And over the course of the last two games against established sides like Derry and Shamrock Rovers, I don’t think there was much between the teams.

”The two results haven’t gone our way. But we certainly feel as if we deserved something from the games.

”We didn’t lose because of a lack of effort and desire. But look, we’ve got to also understand that we cannot be losing those games either.

”We have got to make sure that we get something out of them. That’s something that we need to get right but we are a new group one and I can’t fault the players on their effort and their quality since the first game of the season.

”We played some fantastic stuff with ten men last Friday and the week before in Tallaght. We played a really good brand of football so those results are hard on everyone.

”But ultimately we want to get back to winning ways and that’s what it’s all about this week.

”We want to go and get points. We want to turn performances into wins again.

”We’ll be going to Dundalk to play at the levels we have played at over previous weeks but also be more of a threat and nullify what Dundalk’s threats will be.

”Defeats all hurt. But at the same time we just have to put it to the back of our minds like we do with wins.

”We have to get on with it and hopefully get a good performance that will enable us, in what is a really difficult venue on a difficult surface, and try get three points.”

Dundalk too come into this game after losing to Derry City.

Stephen O’Donnell’s side suffered a 3-0 defeat on Foyleside on Monday night but Devine added: ”I was at the game. Dundalk were unlucky. Even at 2-0 down they had two great chances.

”Even the character they showed the previous week to come back really late against Cork will stand them in good stead in terms of their hunger and their ability to keep going.

”So we’re under no illusions that we are in for another tough, tough game. But we have to bring our best to the party and if we can do that, I fancy us against anybody.”

TEAM NEWS

James Akintunde (hamstring) and Dylan Connolly (rib) are out, while Grant Horton is suspended.

PREVIEW: BOHEMIANS v DERRY CITY

SSE Airtricity Men’s Premier Division
Friday May 12 2023, Dalymount Park, 7.45pm

Declan Devine says his side must take last week’s Dublin Derby setback on the chin when they host his hometown club Derry City at Dalymount Park.

Controversial decisions, including an offside goal and the denial of a stonewall penalty, contributed to Bohemians’ 2-0 defeat to Shamrock Rovers last week.

But despite the frustration of that result, Devine saw plenty in his side’s performance to inspire confidence going into another tough game.

Devine said: “The decisions were just ludicrous but we have to move on. We’ve got to get back on the horse this week.

“The boys were trained brilliantly. We know we’re playing a real top side again and we’re gonna have to go up the gears again.

“That’s the reality of this league. You have to get over setbacks and you have to get over any wins quickly as well.

“We’ve been able to respond after defeats we’ve had this season very positively and it’s something we’ll have to do again on Friday.

“That’s something that we’ve done all year. We have gone to difficult venues and we have dealt with tough opponents in Dalymount, so there will be no difference in our mentality setting up trying to win against Derry City.“

In Ruaidhrí Higgins’ Candystripes, Bohs, still top of the table despite last week’s setback, face a side with designs on a league title.

A Dean Williams penalty gave Bohs all three points when the sides met on Foyleside last month, but Devine knows his players will have to pull out all the stops to repeat that outcome.

Devine said: “Derry have invested really well in their squad. When you have a team that has the likes of Michael Duffy, you know you’re going to have tough opponents. We have to be ready for that.

“Derry will fancy their chances pushing for a league title. We’re just looking to try and make sure that our level of performance will give us an opportunity of taking three points and that’s what we want to do, no matter who we play, and where we play them, we want to take the points.“

Devine admitted his players were both gutted and frustrated by the manner of last week’s defeat, but believes they can channel that disappointment into delivering against his former club.

He said: “It was a long weekend. The result was hard to take because of our performance. The performance did not warrant a 2-0 defeat. The first goal is 100% offside, whether you slow down, whether you don’t, he is standing on the line.

“As I said at the time, the penalty has got to be given. We have to accept that decisions that will go for us and that decisions will go against us. But that doesn’t make going there and losing in the manner that we did any easier to take.

“But it was great to get the lads in training during the week because you know what, our performance was positive, and we said that to them.

“Now we are going to have to make sure that we give the same level of performance, and even more, against Derry because it’s another top side coming to Dalymount and we have to be ready for that.

“There were huge positives, I think with the exception of the first 15 minutes, we were the dominant side for long periods. We were the team that controlled the tempo of the game.

“They got the offside goal, which knocked us for a few moments, but we again came back and we were very positive in our approach, dominating the ball in such a high profile game.

“That’s something that players have to take huge confidence from because over recent years, we might have had it set up just to contain and frustrate but our performances shows so far this group of players have come in terms of their belief in each other, their ability to dominate possession of the ball and to create opportunities.

“And we did have opportunities. Declan has a chance at the back post, Johnny has a chance that is saved on the one v one. And then obviously not giving the penalty was a huge turning point in the game.

“Even if we had been awarded the penalty and scored, I think we would have still gone after them trying to win the game. That is the kind of energy we need against Derry City.”

TEAM NEWS

Ali Coote, who has seen training and game-time since returning from a thigh injury curtailed due to a bug, has played a full part in training this week.

James Akintunde (hamstring) remains out, while Jordan Flores and Jay Benn are doubts.

PREVIEW: SHAMROCK ROVERS v BOHEMIANS

SSE Airtricity Men’s Premier Division
Friday May 5 2023
Tallaght Stadium, 7.45pm

Declan Devine believes his side have learnt lessons from their last Dublin Derby and says Bohemians know the level of performance they must deliver to get a result in Tallaght.

Bohs go into the game top of the table with four points separating them and tomorrow’s opponents in second.

Their hosts have lost just once this season and come into this game after impressive back-to-back wins against Sligo Rovers, St Pat’s and Derry City.

Bohs cross town with their tails up too as well after a convincing 5-0 against 10-man Cork City on May Day.

Devine was delighted with the response of his side in that game, having frustratingly conceded a late equaliser in a below-par performance away to UCD on Monday.

He said: “It was important to start the match positively. It would have been easy at five o’clock on a Bank Holiday Monday after the disappointment of conceding late on Friday to start slowly and sluggishly.

“But that is something we spoke to the players about and full credit to them, they started really well. Their ability to be patient and move the ball was excellent.

“And sometimes when you are playing against 10 men, it is not as easy as people think. You look at our performance with 10 men against St Pat’s, you look at Sligo with 10 men against St Pat’s. So the way we won the game was very pleasing.

“Again, we got three goals from our subs. That is the fourth game in a row that players coming off the bench have scored. That is a real ace up your sleeve to have – quality players who can come on and really influence a performance and result.

“Throughout the season we have shown great character and we have scored 14 goals in our first six home games. We want to score goals at home and we want to entertain.

“Some of the football we have played in the early part of the season has been pleasing. We have gone away from home and dug out clean sheets too.

“It is finding that happy medium going out to Tallaght to get a positive performance and a positive result.”

That game could have gone so differently were it not for James Talbot’s world class save after 27 seconds from Ruairi Keating’s free header.

Devine, himself a former goalkeeper, hailed his No 1, and said: “That’s not surprising from James. The only surprising thing was the fact we gave them that opportunity to score in the first place.

“James has been an outstanding player for this club and he will continue to be in the years to come.

“A really pleasing thing for me was we have Keith Buckley as captain, Jordan Flores as vice-captain, and when neither of those have played, Adam McDonnell has captained the side.

“But to see Jordan Flores coming off, and take the decision himself to run to James and give him the armband, I think that shows the esteem in which James is held by his fellow players.”

Devine was also relieved to see the return of Jordan Flores from suspension and Ali Coote from injury. The former opened the scoring with a stunning free-kick, while the latter helped himself to two goals having been introduced as a second-half substitute.

During his brief absence, Flores and his partner celebrated the arrival of their daughter Sophia and Devine said: “He and his partner have just had a baby girl.

“It’s a fantastic time in his life – his second child, and it is so important that family life is good and strong.

“Jordan is a wonderful person and everyone at the club is delighted for him – the boys all chipped in to buy them a nice present that Bucko presented to them last week.

“Having Jordan back in from the start against Cork was massive for us. He has been a top, top player for a long, long time. He has really hit the ground running this season too.

“Ali, Jordan and James Akintunde would be massive losses for any squad but thankfully we have had big performances and have been able to pick up results without them too.”

Underlining what a loss Coote was to the team, his form prior to being struck down with a thigh injury saw him named the SSE Airtricity / Soccer Writers Ireland Player of the Month for March.

Devine said: “Ali has really lit it up this season. He is a very talented lad and it is great to have him back. He is instrumental to how we want to play.

“But we also have to understand that he hasn’t played in three or four weeks and we have to see how he is.

“He was actually very sick over the weekend. He was very doubtful for Monday as, having returned to training at the start of the week, he didn’t train with the group over the weekend because of illness.

“So for him to come in and perform how he did was brilliant. The threat he can pose to teams is very important to us.

“He is going to be massive for us with so many games coming up in the next few weeks before the break – as will James Akintunde when we get him back in the next week or so.”

Devine believes his side have learned lessons from their previous Dublin Derby against Rovers, which ended in a 2-0 defeat at Dalymount last month.

Devine added: “We have come a long way in a short space of time. It is only 20 weeks since we finished sixth last season.

“But there is a lot to learn from the last time we played them. To give away a goal in the 46th minute of the first half was a big blow for us having dealt with the opening 25/30 minutes being on top, creating chances, and being positive in our approach.

“As a new group we have to accept and realise that we are going to have setbacks. But this is another game where we really want to go and perform to our highest levels. We want to win. We have played positively away in other games in difficult venues.

“This is another difficult venue, and we go into this game with our eyes wide open.

“We want to play to the highest level we can. We certainly won’t be going there to sit back. We have got to go there and try to attack, and be better defensively than what we were when we played them at home.

“We know the intensity we have to bring to this game and we know what it means to players, players’ families and supporters. But ultimately it is just another opportunity for us to try to get another three points.

“We have got to bring our A game and we know if we can do that, we will do ourselves justice because we have players that can hurt any team.”

TEAM NEWS

This game is likely to come too soon for James Akintunde (hamstring).

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