Team news for Shels game

Sligo Rovers take on Shelbourne on Friday night in the Airtricity Premier Division in The Showgrounds.

It is the first of two home games over the next four days. The Bit o' Red are looking to complete a clean sweep against the Tolka Park outfit in the league this year.

Rovers are now just two minutes shy of going 500 minutes without conceding in the Showgrounds.

Raffaele Cretaro will be the second highest appearance maker in the history of the club if he makes a 388th appearance vs Shels. Only Tony Fagan (590) has now made more appearances for the club than the Tubbercurry Tornado.

In team news, Rovers manager Ian Baraclough has a near full squad to choose from with just Ross Gaynor out with a knee injury.

Evan McMillan has trained all week and is back in contention. Cretaro returns from suspension.

Manager Ian Baraclough said:

“Evan has trained all week and the players are collectively and individually pushing each other. They are champing at the bit and it is a good dilemma to have. Training is so, so bright and they are just counting down to each game so to have two matches over the weekend is not a negative for us.

“The expectation is that we will win this game but we know how much work will be needed to ensure we do it. Shelbourne’s players are scrapping for their Premier Division lives and many are looking for contracts for next season. Like all teams coming to The Showgrounds, it gives them a lift, there is that feeling from outside that this is going to be a home win but football has a habit of kicking you when you least expect it.

“Johnny McDonnell has been critical of his players after the two big defeats and he will be looking for a reaction. The first goal may have been important in those matches because Johnny has brought a good shape and organisation to them and they were picking up points. They come here with a different sense of belief in that there is little to lose. We have to be on our guard and not show an inch of complacency because I know Shelbourne would punish it. Apart from those two bad results, they have a been a tough opposition for every team they've faced and that is what I'm expecting on Friday. 

“We have a strong group of players filled with character. They have the character and desire to bring a second league title to this club. There is everything to play for in the league and places are up for grab for Cup semi-finals and the deciding matches in the campaign.

“Firsly we want to close on second place with just two points between the sides and then see how we are positioned towards the top. Our focus is on Friday, these are two important games and we will need our squad to be used.”

Baraclough paid a glowing tribute to Cretaro ahead of a possible historic appearance this weekend. 

“It is fantastic. He has been an excellent servant to the club and who is to say he can’t reach that top spot. There is plenty of life in Raff, like a fine wine he gets better with age. He is still improving and is a great member of the squad.

“He is still scoring goals and he loves scoring and playing for this football club as much as ever from what I can see. Raff is a role model for young footballers in Sligo. He puts in a tremendous amount of work, he looks after himself and he is a recognisable figure in the community for kids to look up to. To amass that number of appearances is a wonderful achievement. He will go down in the history of this club as a true legend.”      

Sligo Rovers v Shelbourne is Friday night at 7:45pm in The Showgrounds. Tickets available at the gate.      

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