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Monday 22 April 2019

Bradley aims for seventh heaven in battle with Harps

(l-r) Rovers boss Stephen Bradley must plan without Jack Byrne for tonight’s clash with Finn Harps. Photo: Sportsfile
(l-r) Rovers boss Stephen Bradley must plan without Jack Byrne for tonight’s clash with Finn Harps. Photo: Sportsfile

It's the league leaders against the team rock bottom in the Premier Division so no wonder Finn Harps manager Ollie Horgan admits it's going to be hard for his players to find a way past Shamrock Rovers tonight.

The extent of call-ups at U21 international level leaves the Harps-Rovers game as the only survivor of the original fixture list. Rovers could have requested a postponement as they have a total of three of their players on international duty.

Jack Byrne is in Gibraltar with the Ireland senior squad while Brandon Kavanagh was a late call-up to the U21 panel, where he joined Trevor Clarke.

Rovers boss Stephen Bradley said after last week's comprehensive win at home to Sligo Rovers that his side planned to play this game even if they were entitled to a postponement, Bradley sensing a real opportunity from the timing as a win in Donegal tonight would put Rovers seven points ahead of their closest challengers Dundalk, though the champions would have two games in hand.

"We have a chance to go and play a game. I don't see a reason to call it off. We believe the squad is strong so go and play the game," said Bradley.

Harps, on a run of four straight defeats, can only admire that optimism as Horgan realises the size of the task ahead of them.

"We will be long odds to get anything from the Shamrock Rovers game but we're up for the challenge and players have prepared well this week. At least we are at home and while we have lost the last two games at Finn Park, it's still an opportunity for us to try and get a result," said the Galway native.

"Shamrock Rovers are full-time so they have the advantage of working on all aspects of the game. We just have to try and finds other ways of being competitive against a team that really is in-form and that's reflected in them being top of the table."

After a positive start to the season, where Harps narrowly lost to Bohemians on the opening night and then took points off Dundalk and St Patrick's Athletic, things have turned, in the wrong direction, for Harps.

"The players must move on from the recent run of poor results and especially in the manner that we performed against UCD last Friday night. It's important that we play as a unit and regain quickly that spirit which been so much part of this team," added Horgan.

Premier Division (tonight)

Finn Harps v Shamrock Rvs (Finn Park, 8.0)

TEAM NEWS: Rovers had three senior players on international duty (Jack Byrne, Trevor Clarke and Brandon Kavangh) but have opted to play the game anyway. Harps are without the injured duo Mark Timlin and Gareth Harkin, while Sean Boyd is ineligible due to the terms of his loan deal from Rovers.

MATCH POINT: A real contrast in mood here, Rovers a side on form in front of goal (three straight wins) and at the back (four successive clean sheets) while the games to date in March see Harps concede an average of three per game. Even with Clarke and Byrne absent, Rovers can call on players like Sean Kavanagh and Dylan Watts to fill in, away win.

REFEREE: Derek Tomney

BETTING: Harps 6/1, Rovers 1/2, draw 14/5

VERDICT: Rovers win

*Betting prices courtesy of Boylesports.

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