Dundalk FC can take a step closer to the SSE Airtricity League Premier Division title on Friday night. (Pic: Sportsfile)
Vinny Perth says Dundalk FC have “a massive opportunity to tick off another box” in their bid to win a fifth SSE Airtricity League Premier Division title in six years when they take on bottom-of-the-table UCD at The Bowl on Friday night (kick-off: 7:45pm).
Perth and his players are “looking forward” to getting back on grass having played their last four fixtures on artificial surfaces, but he insists they must “be at it” despite UCD’s lowly position.
Dundalk coasted past The College 3-0 at Oriel Park on Monday, in a game that was rearranged from June, with Michael Duffy scoring twice before assisting Patrick Hoban for the third, which killed the game off by half-time.
That leaves the defending champions needing just six wins from the final nine games to retain the title, and their head coach believes Friday’s fixture presents a good chance to reduce that number to five.
“We’re probably due a day out on a grass pitch and we’ll look forward to that. We haven’t been on one in a while,” Perth said.
“We have got to be at it, we have got to be professional up there and I think if we do that, we’ll give ourselves a real chance. It’s a massive opportunity for us to tick off another box, so we’ll go and we’ll be at it up there.”
Perth is expected to make more changes for the trip to Belfield and he says people must respect that there are reasons behind team selection, pointing to frustrations from some that John Mountney and Patrick McEleney were left on the bench in Derry last week.
“I don’t know,” Vinny said, asked if he would change it up again for Friday. “John Mountney, for example, was sick on Friday against Derry and people were almost critical of the team we picked. They don’t know what’s going on.
“There are certain issues, certain people have niggles, and they have got certain things in their private life that I have to protect. That’s what I’ll do. We’ll assess that on Friday.
“There are a lot of injuries and a lot of stuff going on at the moment. Monday was our seventh game in 19 days. People say we have a big squad, but I’m not sure about that.”
In team news released on Thursday, Dundalk have reported that Mountney will miss Friday’s game after picking up an ankle injury which forced him off after just four minutes of Monday’s win.
Centre-half Andy Boyle faces a late fitness test with a tight hamstring but, otherwise, Perth has a fully-fit squad and can welcome Chris Shields back after the midfielder served a one-match suspension.
The Lilywhites – who have scored 17 goals in their last four outings – are unbeaten in 18 Premier Division games, a sequence including 16 wins, and are unbeaten in 22 outings altogether in domestic competition.
They have already defeated UCD four times this season, winning 2-1, 3-1 and 3-0 in the league, while they knocked them out of the EA SPORTS Cup 3-1.
On their last visit to The UCD Bowl, in April, Yoyo Mahdy gave The Students an 11th-minute lead which was quickly cancelled out by Hoban’s penalty before second-half goals from Duffy and Georgie Kelly sealed the 3-1 victory.
UCD have not beaten Dundalk since 2013, when they won 3-2 at Oriel Park, and are without a home win over the Louth side since a 3-0 success back in September 2011.
While Dundalk come into this game on the back of six straight wins domestically, they face a UCD team who are strong favourites for automatic relegation having fallen six points adrift of Finn Harps at the bottom of the standings.
They have lost their last five league games, including 7-0 and 10-1 defeats at Shamrock Rovers and Bohemians respectively.
However, their 3-1 FAI Cup win over St. Patrick’s Athletic last weekend – in their first home outing under new boss Maciej Tarnogrodzki – will give them hope, as will their overall form at The Bowl where they have not been beaten by more than two goals this year.
Dundalk’s league run-in is now a lot clearer, with this coming Monday’s trip to Sligo Rovers followed by the visit of Cork City to Oriel Park next Friday night. That outstanding fixture has been squeezed in after the Extra.ie FAI Cup quarter-final against Waterford was pushed back to the following Monday.