Long's got a few Bohs to pick up
If dampening down expectations ahead of the new season is the plan for Bohemians, they are going about it the right way on the basis of their pre-season form.
Keith Long's side went down 2-0 at home to Shelbourne in a pre-season friendly at a chilly Dalymount Park yesterday and that result, coming just days after a 3-3 draw with Cabinteely, means that the Gypsies have conceded five goals in two pre-season games against First Division sides, with an added cost from yesterday's defeat as key striker Ismahil Akinade went off in the first half due to injury.
An unfancied Bohs pulled off a surprise last season, earning an unexpected top-five finish which kept them in contention for a place in Europe until late on, and they were also the only side to beat champions Dundalk in the league.
With a small budget in place, and only three new signings, the club haven't splashed out in a bid to fund a real title challenge in 2016, and manager Keith Long admits that keeping feet on the ground will be an issue, though not on the pre-season evidence.
"Judging on yesterday, pre-season hasn't gone too well. It's pre-season, there are no points at stake but we have to defend better as a team, we have areas we need to improve on," Long said after the loss to Shels, James English the Reds' hero with both goals.
"It's early days and I wouldn't be too concerned, but with five goals in two games, you don't have to look too far to find what we need to do," added Long, who is hopeful that Akinade's knee injury is not serious.
"There is an element of managing expectations around the club, but equally too we have to be ambitious, we can put no limits to the season. We have to get off to a good start, it's a difficult game, away to Cork, but a great game to be involved in.
"But overall we have to try and improve, it won't be easy, it will be a challenge as, in many ways, we exceeded expectations last season. But we want to improve our league standing, we want to try and win something tangible this year. We got some plaudits last season, the team rightly so for their efforts but now we have to try and step it up a notch this year and bring it on," added Long, who will not be making any more signings bar Kurtis Byrne, Mark Quigley and Aymen Ben Mohamed.
"We have no more money so we won't be signing anyone else, the budget is tight, Stability is key for us, we have a lot of players from last season and that's hugely important to us."