Liam Burns bids to rally the troops as Dundalk FC look to put an eventful week behind them when they welcome reigning champions Shamrock Rovers to Oriel Park in the SSE Airtricity Men’s Premier Division at Oriel Park on Friday night (kick-off 7.45pm).

Following the departure of Head of Football Operations Brian Gartland at the beginning of the week, first-team manager Noel King stepped down on Wednesday due to medical reasons, leaving the club’s former captain Burns in charge for the visit of the Hoops.

Having picked up five points in a three-game unbeaten run, Dundalk suffered costly back-to-back defeats on the road by Drogheda United and Waterford last week, with the team now six points adrift at the bottom of the table approaching the midpoint of the season.

With just a single victory in their opening 15 league games, the Lilywhites now face into a difficult run of fixtures. But they will be hoping that their solid home form can continue, with title-chasing Rovers and Derry City both in town before the end of this month.

After losing their opening two matches at Oriel Park, Dundalk are now undefeated in five outings there, without conceding a goal. However, they have scored in just one of those themselves, netting twice against Bohemians in their sole victory of the campaign three weeks ago.

The goals that night were two first-half crackers from Scott High, who is currently sidelined with a hamstring injury, and Robbie Benson, who misses out this Friday due to a suspension incurred for a fifth yellow card of the campaign picked up in the 4-1 hammering at the RSC.

While Dundalk are aiming to bounce back from two successive losses, Rovers are searching for a first win in four games. Earlier this month, Stephen Bradley’s side drew Dublin Derbies with Bohemians and Saint Patrick’s Athletic, either side of suffering a 3-1 defeat by in-form Waterford in Tallaght.

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The Hoops have won just one of their last six games, an easy 4-0 victory at home to Drogheda at the end of April, but they are still just three points behind league leaders Shelbourne. If results go their way on Friday, they will jump to the top, ahead of Monday’s round of fixtures involving the four European participants.

Dundalk have the worst away record in the country, taking just two points from a possible 24, but one of those came at Rovers on the opening day of the season in mid-February. Jamie Gullan’s powerful first-half free-kick was cancelled out by Aaron Greene’s close-range finish on the hour, moments after Ryan O’Kane had struck the post.

Rovers have lost on their last two visits to Oriel Park. Last July, Hayden Muller struck in the 23rd minute and despite seeing Paul Doyle sent off soon after, ten-man Dundalk held on for a 1-0 success to advance in the FAI Cup. The previous month, Dundalk won 2-0 in the league thanks to goals in the final 20 minutes from Louie Annesley and Patrick Hoban.

Team News
Robbie Benson misses out through suspension while Scott High, Ciaran McGuckin, Dara Keane and Robbie Mahon are injured.

Quotes – Liam Burns
“It’s obviously been a bit of a strange week for everyone at the club but our only focus over the past few days has been on getting the team ready for Friday night. 

“Dundalk and Shamrock Rovers is one of the biggest games of the season and after two tough away games in Drogheda and Waterford, we’re looking forward to getting back to Oriel Park.

“Our home form has been good, we haven’t conceded a goal in our last five games at Oriel, and we’ve had a good record against Rovers in recent years so that’s something we need to try and build on.

“We need to make it one of those nights where everyone comes together and gets behind the lads on the pitch and if we do that, we’re more than capable of getting a good result.”

Match Officials
Referee: Alan Patchell
Assistants: Darren Corcoran and Brian Fenlon
Fourth Official: Rob Hennessy

Tickets
Tickets for the game are now on general sale.