It’s advantage Drogheda after this weekend’s SSE Airtricity League First Division fixtures. The United Park outfit came away from the top-of-the-table clash at Bray Wanderers’ Carlisle Grounds with a 1-0 win – courtesy of a Mark Doyle goal – and leapfrogged their hosts to the top of the table.
Drogheda are now in the driving seat on 30 points, with Bray now occupying the passenger seat on 29. Will the positions switch again? With four games left, there are 12 points up for grabs, and there is only a point between the sides, so yes, all is not lost for Bray. Or Longford, for that matter, who are still in with an outside chance of lifting the title at four points adrift on 26.
An analysis of the run-ins of Drogheda, Bray and Longford flags up John Caulfield’s Galway as a common denominator. Although Galway lost to Cobh at the weekend, their upturn in form since Caulfield took over has been phenomenal, and with an outside chance of a play-off still in the mix for The Tribesmen, they could well decide who the title-winners will be.
Looking at run-ins is like trying to read the tea leaves though. Bray would seem to have the hardest run-in as they have three away games in their final four fixtures, whereas Longford and Drogheda each have two home and two away. Or perhaps it’s Longford who have the most difficult run-in as they only have one game against sides from the bottom three, whereas Bray and Drogheda each have two. Or perhaps it’s Drogheda who are in the most difficult position given that they are out in front, being chased ruthlessly by the pack.
The consolation for whoever misses out on the title from these three will be a play-off spot. Or will it? There are three play-off spots up for grabs but none of Drogheda, Bray and Longford are mathematically guaranteed one. UCD currently occupy the last play-off spot, on 23 points. Cabinteely also have 23 points and Galway and Cobh both have 20. If Drogheda are in the driving seat and Bray the passenger seat, then the back seat is pretty crowded!
In theory any of the top seven can still win the title, secure a play-off spot or end up with nothing but a mid-table finish, such is the excitement of the division this term. Even the bottom three of Wexford, Athlone Town and Shamrock Rovers 2 are battling it out to avoid the wooden spoon, with the basement position having been swapped around them all in recent weeks!