PREVIEW: RUSSELL CONFIDENT OF GOING IN “RIGHT DIRECTION”
Limerick boss Martin Russell believes his side will find “the right direction” but he warned that it “won’t happen overnight”, as he prepares for the visit of title hopefuls Shamrock Rovers to Thomond Park on Friday night (kick-off 7.45pm).
The 47-year-old saw his first competitive game in charge of the Shannonsiders end in defeat last Sunday when they were beaten by two late goals from Sligo Rovers at the Showgrounds. That extended their losing streak to four games as they remain point-less since the midseason break.
And while it was a display that the former UCD manager saw “some positives” in, he knows his players must work harder to earn the results that will lift them away from the danger zone.
This weekend sees Russell enter the home dugout at the iconic Munster venue for the first time, as they entertain a Rovers team who will be bidding to bounce back following last week’s defeat by Drogheda United, which saw the Boynesiders leapfrog Limerick into eighth.
And the boss knows his side will have to be “at their best” to stop the rot, with the former League of Ireland winner keen to find a winning mentality sooner rather than later.
“Shamrock Rovers are still very much in the title chase. They have a formidable squad so we know that we’ll have to be at our best to get something from the game,” Russell told LimerickFC.ie.
“Winning is a great habit to have. We want to get that as quickly as we can. I believe it will come. You can’t expect something that’s been there for a while to change very quickly, but in time I think we’ll go in the right direction.
“It’s important to get points on the board but you don’t hope for points. You play for points and your performances have got to win you points.
“There were plusses within the performance against Sligo last Sunday but I’m also conscious of areas where we need to improve. It won’t happen overnight but we will continue to build a stronger club and the same will happen with the team.
“Credit to Sligo, they probably had a major share of the play but for a long time our game-plan was working. It just shows you, at this level when you don’t do it to the fullest, you get punished in any gaps that you may have.
“Still, I was pleased with the application from our players for most of the game. I saw some positives in it but I also realised that we need to work harder to make sure we do get results and points on the board.
“We are looking forward to the new additions blending in and I’m hopeful from now until the end of the season, with the squad that we have, that we’ll play an attacking brand of football that will yield us our share of points.
“Hopefully, the supporters will get behind us and see what we’re trying to do, and hopefully we can have a successful run-in to the end of the season.”
Ninth-placed Limerick lost on their last home outing, to Bohemians four weeks ago, as they went down to a 2-1 defeat despite leading at half-time. In their previous two games at Thomond Park, they defeated Saint Patrick’s Athletic and UCD, which will provide plenty of encouragement ahead of this weekend.
Fourth-placed Rovers, meanwhile, have lost three of their last six league outings, having gone unbeaten in their previous eight games, a sequence which included five wins.
Last Friday’s setback at home to Drogheda has left them nine points off leaders Dundalk, but with the Lilywhites facing second-placed Cork City this weekend, Rovers will be keen to close the gap should the pacesetters slip up on Leeside.
The Hoops have been in flying form on the road since late April, winning on their last five Premier Division trips, overcoming Drogheda, Derry City, Sligo Rovers, UCD and Bray Wanderers, with four clean-sheets in a row.
Recent Meetings: When the teams last met, it proved a dramatic encounter at Tallaght Stadium in May. Rory Gaffney headed Limerick into an early lead after connecting with Shane Tracy’s free-kick, before Barry Ryan saved Gary McCabe’s penalty past the hour-mark.
That looked to have secured the Munster men an important victory but six minutes into injury-time, Ryan was dismissed after receiving a second yellow card, Seán O’Connor saw his resulting spot-kick saved by stand-in ‘keeper Tracy and Jason McGuinness followed up to score the rebound to earn a 1-1 draw.
On Rovers’ last visit to Thomond Park, last September, goals in either half from Jason Hughes and Gaffney sealed a 2-0 win for the hosts.
Team News: Limerick added midfielder Joseph Ndo, on loan, and winger Kieran Djilali to their ranks from Sligo Rovers on Wednesday. But only the latter will be available this weekend, once clearance comes through, as the former Cameroon International misses out through a knee injury.
Young left-sided player Colm Murphy will be absent for the next two weeks having suffered concussion which forced him off at half-time in last week’s loss at Sligo. Experienced goalkeeper Barry Ryan (knee) is back in contention while midfielder Darragh Rainsford has joined back in training following illness.
Referee for the game is James McKell, his assistants are Allan Lynch and Emmet Dynan while the fourth official is Rob Hennessy.
Preview Date: Thursday 31 July 2014