Galway United host Longford Town in their final game of the SSE Airtricity First Division tomorrow night knowing the game is likely to serve as a dress rehearsal for a two-legged promotion play-off the following week.
Should second-placed Waterford FC manage a draw or a win at home to Athlone Town tomorrow, the play-off pairings of United and Longford would be sealed. Were United to beat their midland rivals tomorrow and Waterford to fall to an unlikely home defeat, United would face Treaty United next week.
United’s troubled run of form continued last Friday when they were held to a goalless draw by Wexford FC in Ferrycarrig Park. The stalemate meant the Tribesmen have only one win in their last eight league games, a worrying omen with knock-out fixtures looming.
While both sides failing to register a shot on target in the first half in Wexford, there were some encouraging signs from United going forward in the second. Max Hemmings should have scored when Bastien Hery released him with a classy through ball. Stephen Walsh was thwarted by the crossbar in the 66th minute. Both Wilson Waweru and James Finnerty also had chances late on.
At the other end, Conor Kearns needed to be sharp to keep Wexford out on three occasions. His clean sheet, a first for United since in eight league games, would have been one of the main crumbs of comfort for John Caulfield. The manager will undoubtedly have also been pleased to welcome Conor McCormack back into his midfield.
With the return of the veteran captain, United are as close to full-strength as they have been since the summer window – Killian Brouder, Mikie Rowe and Ronan Manning all returning in recent weeks.
The availability of a near full-strength squad offers some optimism. For Friday, however, supporters will be apprehensive of the potential for shadow boxing. Both manager’s squad selections are likely to be coloured by the likelihood of more meaningful return fixtures next week.
United, however, will be keen to learn what they can about themselves and their opponents. There will be particular interest in the form of Longford striker Jordan Adeyamo after his move from Galway to the midlands mid-season. Since then, he has scored six in eleven and is likely to cause concern along with Sam Verdon in attack.