herald

Saturday 22 September 2018

Bohemians fired up for crack at leaders Dundalk after basement battles

Bohemians’ Dylan Watts
Bohemians’ Dylan Watts

Bohemians are trying to agree a deal which will allow them to hold on to midfield star Dylan Watts at least until the end of the season.

Watts has clocked up eight successive starts in the Gypsies midfield, the former UCD man enjoying a run of first-team football during his spell on loan from Leicester City.

Watts (22) is out of contract with the Foxes next month, though it's possible that they could trigger the option of another year and sign him for another 12 months, or else they could release the midfielder they signed from UCD in 2016.

Bohs have to wait until Leicester make their call next week on a new deal, or a free transfer, for Watts, who has yet to play for the first team at Leicester, but the Dublin club are keen to keep the talented Watts at Dalymount Park.

"We'd like him to stay. We're in negotiations and the situation is still active," says Bohs boss Keith Long, who is readying his squad for a test at home to league leaders Dundalk tonight.

Bohemians manager Keith Long will face a tough clash with Dundalk at Dalymount Park tonight
Bohemians manager Keith Long will face a tough clash with Dundalk at Dalymount Park tonight

Bohs have, over the last two weeks, managed to get back-to-back wins for the first time this season, a six-point haul which allowed them move away from the bottom two.

But those victories came against the teams below them in the table (Sligo Rovers and Bray Wanderers), and facing up to the league leaders, before a derby with a sixth-placed Shamrock Rovers, is a different sort of test.

It's a test that has confounded Bohs this term: they have yet to earn even a point in seven games against the league's top four (Dundalk, Cork, Waterford and Derry), so Long knows there is a job to do.

"We won against Sligo and Bray, and it is important that we beat the teams around us, those points have helped us move up the table a bit, but playing Dundalk is a different proposition," says Long.

"We have the league leaders coming to our place tonight, they are playing some great football and putting other teams to the sword and the fact that they're the first team to win in Derry shows how strong Dundalk are.

"They are a talented squad, no matter what players Stephen Kenny picks they are strong, but this is an important game for us, I know the fans are looking forward to the home game with Rovers next week but we can only focus on tonight."

Injury has disrupted Long's plans this season but there's good news on left back Darragh Leahy, who could return earlier than expected, captain Derek Pender should rejoin the matchday squad tonight, and Cristian Magerusan could be fit after the mid-season break.

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