United need to boost home record as relegation battle continues

As an intriguing SSE Airtricity League premier division relegation battle continues, Galway United's Eamonn Deacy Park clash with Longford Town on Saturday evening can certainly be classed as crucial.

One of the main disappointments for Galway throughout the year has been their poor form on home turf. If a return to the first division is to be avoided, that is an aspect United need to improve drastically in the closing two months of the season.

The statistics confirm just how much Galway have endured as only three league victories have been registered at the Dyke Road venue in 2015 – the last of which occurred on May 15 when outfoxing Bohemians 5-3. When United beat Limerick FC at the Markets Field on July 11, Tommy Dunne's side went 17 points clear of the Treatymen, but much has changed since that fixture.

A flurry of Limerick successes means the gap has been trimmed to four points, and with Sligo Rovers, Drogheda United, Derry City, Bray Wanderers, and this weekend's opponents Longford Town all in the mix, the remainder of the campaign should be lively.

There has been a touch of the erratic about Longford recently as the midlanders, who started the season brightly,  have only won once in their last six games. David O'Sullivan's decisive goal in the triumph over Bray injected Longford's account with hope and points, so they will be keen to build on that positive result when they visit the west.

Longford's squad is packed with experience as Conor Powell, Mark Rossiter, Pat Sullivan, Stephen Rice, and Dean Kelly have all been part of title winning outfits. Combative midfielder Rice will miss the United contest through suspension, so Longford will hope that Mark Salmon can exert an influence in the centre of the park.

Ryan Connolly's unfortunate ankle injury has deprived Galway of creativity, and it is not surprising his absence has coincided with the team's least effective spell of the year.

Manager Dunne has been keen to add to his options and former Finland u-20 international Toni Saarelma has signed for the Tribesmen. Twenty-six-year-old winger Saarelma spent two years with Chelsea as a teenager and has played in Finland, Germany, Estonia, and Switzerland.

United's year has been dogged by injury problems, so it was encouraging that Kilian Cantwell and Andy O'Connell featured in last Friday's narrow loss at Turners Cross against Cork City. Competitive for large chunks of a tight game, Billy Dennehy climbed off the bench to earn all three points for Cork when landing the decisive blow.

Despite the loss United's display was hearty, with youngster Conor Melody given another opportunity with the first team. Having already attracted cross-channel interest during a promising underage career, Melody has the skill to make an impact in a maroon shirt.

While the EA Sports Cup decider against St Patrick's Athletic on September 19 will generate interest, the Longford encounter will be a revealing one for United. With seven clubs still bothered by relegation worries, United's management, players, and supporters know just how relevant this Longford tussle is.

•GUST Table Quiz. Galway United Supporters' Trust will hold a general knowledge table quiz at The Dail Bar, Cross Street, Galway on Tuesday, September 15 (9pm ). The entry fee is €40, with EA Sports Cup Final match tickets and other prizes on offer. GUST will have a stand at the Galway Shopping Centre, Headford Road, this Saturday from 10am to 6pm. EA Sports Cup Final tickets will be on sale.

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