Team news for Athlone game

Sligo Rovers face Athlone Town on Saturday night in The Showgrounds in the club’s first match of the new SSE Airtricity League season.

The Bit o’ Red meet the newly-promoted side in an eagerly-anticipated league opener for Ian Baraclough’s men.

Rovers are nine unbeaten in The Showgrounds since the reverse to Molde in the Champions League last July.

It’s over three years since Rovers were beaten by a promoted club when Sporting Fingal won 1-0 in the Showgrounds in May 2010.

In team news, Ross Gaynor and Kieran Djilali are set to miss out with hamstring and knee problems respectively.

The duo have made a return to training but Saturday’s game is likely to come too soon.

Sean Maguire has recovered from an ankle knock, but Danny North serves a one-match suspension. Gavin Peers is out with a long-term knee injury.

Manager Ian Baraclough said:

“We go into the game in good heart. All of the players are desperate to play in the first game. The preparations have been good and I feel we’re ready.

“We have options in terms of team selection. It is why we brought the players in, so there is competition in the squad each week.

“There was a thought-process behind it because you have to have a strong squad with depth and we feel we have that here now even when we are missing a few on Saturday.

“I explained to the players this week that I will mix and match team selections. I read this week about Burnley in the Championship where their manager Sean Dyche has chosen the same team for seven games in-a-row. It is so rare to hear that these days compared to 15 years ago where it was a lot more normal. The players all have their part to play.

 “Athlone are well-drilled, they will have the hallmarks of a Mick Cooke team in that they will be in our face and make life difficult and they will also threaten when going forward as well.

“Any team that have ambitions to be at the top come the end of the season have to have a strong foundation in their home record.

“We had it last season and we will be looking to do it again this season and make sure we are not complacent. We have a good chance to get off to a positive start on Saturday.

“It is looking like there will be a great atmosphere on Saturday amongst our support and they can play their part as well. We need them behind us and not to wait for things to happen. The Showgrounds should be a place that every team fears and does not relish visiting. Athlone and their supporters will be looking forward to their return to the top flight – the onus is on to make the start we feel we can.” 

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