Athlone striker Noel McGee will miss Friday's Airtricity League match with Wexford Youths and could be sidelined through injury for four weeks.
Airtricity League 1st Division Preview
THE battle to finish the current Airtricity League First Division season in fourth position continues at Lissywoolen on Friday evening when fifth-placed Athlone Town host Wexford Youths (7.45pm).
Victory for Athlone, who have not won for nine games following last weekend's 2-0 loss at fourth-placed Finn Harps, will send Athlone back level with the Donegal outfit on 32 points.
A loss, however, to Wexford, who are also chasing fourth place, will mean Athlone drop to their lowest position of the season in sixth.
Athlone manager Padraig Moran has been hit with a catalogue of selection problems ahead of the visit of Wexford, with top-scorer Noel McGee expected to be sidelined for four weeks with a calf problem.
With Mark Sherlock also unavailable at present, the striking baton is expected to be handed to youngster Ian Sweeney to partner Mark McGoldrick in Athlone's attack.
Sweeney was in scintillating form for the club's under-19 team earlier in the week, netting four excellent goals in a 4-2 win over Limerick.
Shane Dunne and Kevin Williamson join Sean Skelly on the list of suspended players, while Moran is hoping Neil Harney, Stephen Last and Barry O'Mahony can shurg-off knocks ahead of Friday's game (the only 1st Division fixture this weekend).
On the positive side, Garvan Broughall and Stephen Relihan, who only recently returned from working in the States, are being considered for selection after proving their fitness in training in recent weeks.
Moran, who is desperate to ensure a first win since taking over from Mike Kerley three weeks ago, said: "I was bitterly disappointed with the result against Finn Harps. It was definitely a game I targetted to win, but Harps seemed to have a greater desire, and that's what annoyed me most. I can't fault the players for effort and application in training since I took the job, but I felt we were caught by a more determined team (against Harps). That shouldn't happen and we need to work hard and show a bit of graft before earning the right to play pretty football."
He was also dismayed at the manner of Harps' two goals, as costly mistakes in defence presented Peter Hutton's men with gilt-edged opportunities.
"Ultimately, there was only a kick of a ball between us and Harps, and we gifted them both goals, but we need to pick ourselves up and produce a better performance against Wexford. I don't want to let the season peter-out and am determined to finish in fourth. The Wexford game gives us a realistic opportunity to get back on track and put a much-needed win on the board," said the former Sligo Rovers attacker.
The current Town boss also reiterated his desire to remain at the helm next season, and noted that a few quickfire victories would no doubt help his cause to stay in place.
"That seems a long way away at the moment, but I'll continue to give my very best for the remaining five games and see where it leaves us. I do harbour long-term ambitions to continue as Athlone manager, but you never know what's around the corner in football. I'll keep working hard and hopefully we'll see the lads put some points on the board in the coming weeks," Moran said.