Result needed as slow starting Bohs meet struggling Longford
Four points plays four points on Friday night at Dalymount Par, as slow starters Bohemians and Longford Town clash at the Dublin venue (kick-off 7:45PM). It's been a total contrast to last season for both of these sides, who finished fifth and sixth respectively in 2015, with leaky defences and a lack of goals sinking both "Bohs" and Town towards the bottom end of the table. These two sides look tightly matched in all departments ahead of their second meeting of the season, with the hosts running out 3-1 winners in a recent league cup tie at the same venue. Keith Long and Tony Cousins charges have only been able to muster up seven goals in attack in the league between them, while the Dublin club has conceded the same amount of nine goals as a team that recently lost 6-0 to Cork City, a very worrying stat for "Bohs" followers indeed. Given the number of changes made ahead of the aforementioned league cup game of late, you can not really take much from that meeting and it makes Friday's game all that bit harder to call.
"De Town" were short of what could be argued were seven starting players for last weeks trip to Donegal, which makes the 1-0 defeat look somewhat positive to the naked eye. However, the lack of creativity and general excitement in Longford's play this seasin is extremely worrying for followers of the club at present, as questions start to arise over Tony Cousins recruitment plan during the off-season. The good news for Longford ahead of this encounter is the return of Pat Flynn and Kevin O'Connor from suspension, something along with injuries that have hit an already small squad hard to date. On the downside, the likes of Conor Powell, Rhys Gorman and Lee Duffy all remain sidelined for the "Midlanders" and that lack of experience, at the back in particular, could be the difference maker against Bohemians with powerful striker Ismahil Akinade back in action, following a virus.
Despite a poor start, in a season where Bohemians were tipped to once again push all the way for Europe, former Athlone Town boss Keith Long appeared confident when speaking to his clubs official website, www.bohemianfc.com:
“We know we haven’t clicked yet. But we need to have some perspective too, we’re only five games into the season. “If we continue working hard, our luck will change. The players have been positive and hard-working all week. I expect us to bounce back."
With both sides stuck in a bit of a rut at present, the home side in particular will be viewing this meeting as a chance to kick-start the 2016 campaign as Long stated:
“Confidence is a huge thing. A good result against Longford and things can suddenly look a lot better.”
Long was also quick to dispel the notion that his side would underestimate a struggling Town side, following their relatively comfortable 3-1 league cup win over the Midlands outfit:
“It will be a different game and Tony Cousins will select a stronger team. “But our mentality is the same. We want fast, attacking football. We want our players to go out and express themselves and to be positive in possession.”
With Mark Quigley and Jason Caffery doubtful for the hosts, Tony Cousins side will really need to get the balance between going forward and being solid at the back right for this crucial league match if they are to avoid heading into a daunting challenge against Champions Dundalk next weekend. With Wexford Youths performing well, despite the lack of points to show for their efforts, and the likes of Finn Harps, Galway United and Derry City all performing above expectations this season, "De Town" risk being cut away from the majority of league teams should this poor run of form continue. While the same could obviously be said for Bohemians, a win on Friday would surely spark what looks to be a talented group of players into life and a relegation battle should be the last thing on their minds in 2016.
Meanwhile, all eyes will be on former Town winger Aymen Ben Mohamed on Friday night as he lines out against a Longford team he downed Bohemians with at City Calling Stadium last season. The loss of the talented midfielder has certainly left a lack of excitement in the attacking third of Town's team and their supporters may be left looking through their hands if Ben Mohamed is to turn on the style in this almost six-pointer encounter.
PREDICTION - DRAW.