Battling Salthill head south needing to close the gap

Following last Friday's tepid Galway derby draw, Mervue United and Salthill Devon will be hoping for improved Airtricity League first division performances this weekend.

Salthill took some satisfaction by the battling way in which they frustrated Mervue at Drom, but victories are required and tomorrow's trip to Ferrycarrig Park for a clash with Wexford Youths is certainly tricky.

Mervue host Waterford United at Fahy's Field and are keen to recapture the dash they showed in the campaign’s early weeks. In their past half dozen matches Mervue have only won once and, while four draws suggest Johnny Glynn's team are competitive, three home points would be welcomed.

Still, for all the recent stalemates, Mervue remain in second place in the table, trailing league leaders Longford Town by six points. That provides significant encouragement for Mervue, who face a Waterford outfit that have endured a surprisingly difficult opening couple of months to the year.

Heavily been touted as serious promotion candidates, Waterford are only beginning to acquire some form and they have taken 12 points out of a possible 27. Waterford will be anxious to make a positive statement in the west, but Mervue have been safe and solid in the majority of their encounters to date.

When the teams last collided at the RSC Mervue cruised to a facile success, but the Blues will hardly let such an outcome occur again. At Drom Mervue crafted chances throughout against Devon, but the visitors just were not clinical enough converting.

Ultimately that meant Salthill escaped with a point and Mervue were left reflecting on the two they failed to take. Gary Curran and Jason Molloy did manufacture opportunities, but Mervue were unable to shrug off Salthill's spirited resistance.

Mervue, though, continue to include youthful footballers who are clearly benefiting from sampling action at this level. Ryan Manning is the stand-out teenage talent, but he is developing alongside Stephen Walsh, Tom King, Curran, Noel Varley, Paul Sinnott, and Molloy, who have all been prominent for Glynn's side. This joust with Waterford represents another interesting examination for Mervue, who know that a win is required if they are to keep snapping at Longford's heels.

Salthill face the long trek to the southeast aware they are in grave danger of being left marooned at the bottom of the standings.

Currently seven points behind second-last Wexford, Salthill need to cut the gap quickly so this is a 90 minutes that carries deep importance.

Defiant when Mervue crossed the town, Salthill had an able custodian in James Keane, who made several fine saves. Elsewhere the experience and guile of Mixie Harty and Derek O'Brien ensured Salthill avoided another defeat. Colm Horgan, Craig Harding, and Jean Biansumba are others who can make the necessary contributions for Salthill in Wexford.

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