Dundalk Have “Bit Between Their Teeth” // UCD Preview
Dundalk FC manager Ian Foster says his side have the “bit between their teeth” after “letting people down” in last week’s disappointing defeat by Saint Patrick’s Athletic, and he is confident that the steep learning curve will “stand us in good stead for the rest of the season”. The 34-year-old was speaking ahead of the visit of UCD to Oriel Park on Friday night (kick-off 7.45pm), when the Louth club will be looking to bounce back after throwing away a 2-0 lead at Richmond Park last weekend, three goals in the final half-an-hour seeing the Saints complete a remarkable comeback.
The loss ended a four-game unbeaten run in all competitions for Dundalk, and while Foster is well aware that the Students will provide a difficult assignment, he says his players will be entering the match in determined mood. “UCD, although there has been a big change around in personnel, their philosophy doesn’t change,” Foster told dundalkfc.com. “They’ll get the ball down and play, they’ll play in between the lines and they’ll move the ball very, very quickly. They’re always a challenge and a test because they play football in the right manner, and when they have it they keep it for long spells, so you have got to stay switched on.
“We’re always excited about playing UCD and we’re excited about playing at home,” Foster added. “And more importantly, the lads have a little bit of a bit between their teeth because they feel they let people down last Friday, they want to bounce back as quickly as they can, and hopefully Friday night is the night when we can do that.” Foster went on to say that he feels the team have now put last weekend’s disappointment behind them. “We spoke about it early in the week,” he said, “but then you have to put it to bed. There is no point in dwelling on it. You have to learn from it quickly. It is a good learning curve for the young players, although it is a difficult one to take. We all have to take responsibility for the last 30 minutes at Richmond Park, but it is something we can all learn from and hopefully that will stand us in good stead for the rest of the season.”
Meanwhile, Dundalk winger Ross Gaynor, who was part of an impressive attacking unit on show last week, is out to quickly bury the ghost of Inchicore. “It was a game of two halves,” Gaynor said when asked what he made of the performance. “I thought we did very well in the first half, we attacked very well; Kearns’ attacking was brilliant. And obviously with the second goal, I thought we would push on. But for some reason we dropped ten-yards and invited pressure on ourselves. The way they play, they just lump the ball into the box, and I thought they did it very well. They scored three very, very sloppy goals, from our point of view, but I think looking at it now, we have got a nice game against UCD. They will be the complete opposite. They will try to pass the ball around us, and I think we’re good at that. I’m looking forward to it.”
Asked if he felt it would be hard to bounce back from the defeat, Gaynor insisted: “No. As I said, it’s a nice game to have on Friday. They’re a good footballing side, so it will be good passing and it will be completely different. When we went 2-0 up last week, it was an absolute battle after that. UCD will be completely different; they won’t be lumping balls into the box. We missed big Gutsy (Shane Guthrie) at the back, so it will be good to get him back. It will be good to get to play a bit of ball too. I don’t think we could really play ball against St. Pat’s in the second half; for some reason we just dropped a few yards, I don’t know why.” Dundalk have conceded the most goals and are second-highest scorers in the league, but Gaynor refused to blame the defence. “It’s not the back five,” he said, “it’s everybody. We’re so good going forward. If we can keep clean-sheets we’ll win the league; we’ll score more goals than anybody. But we’re conceding, and it’s not just down to the back five. It’s down to everybody, even the strikers. We just have to work on it in training, and hopefully we can eradicate it and just move on.
Eight in April
“I didn’t leave my house after Friday,” Ross added. “It was one of them. We were devastated about the result, after being head over heels with 2-0 up and then for it to be taken away. Training wasn’t as sharp on Monday because we were still a bit down, but Tuesday was very bright and very sharp, so we’ll be flying on Thursday and ready for Friday.” Dundalk follow up Friday’s game with Monday’s trip to Belfast for the first leg of their Setanta Sports Cup semi-final against Cliftonville in Solitude. And Gaynor says he is relishing the month ahead, which sees the Lilywhites play eight games. “I’m looking forward to the month of April,” the 23-year-old said. “I think we have Friday/Monday games nearly the whole month. It’s going to be tough, but if we can get a good win on Friday that will set us up nicely for Cliftonville.”
For the visit of UCD, Foster has been hit by the news that central midfielder Greg Bolger will be sidelined for between 6-8 weeks with a grade two thigh strain. Fellow midfielder Stephen Maher should be available, although the 23-year-old is also facing a spell out as he is likely to require surgery on torn groin muscles. Left-back Eoghan Osborne is ruled out until July at the earliest with a fractured tibia which he suffered in training with the Reserves on Tuesday night. Midfielder Dean Bennett is facing a race against time to be fit. The 33-year-old has been out since suffering a hamstring strain in the 3-2 home win over Galway United three weeks ago, and though he is close to a return, it is expected “Friday will probably come too soon”. On a positive note, Foster can welcome back central defender Shane Guthrie, who was unavailable last week due to the terms of his loan agreement from St. Pat’s.
Referee: Tom Connolly (Dublin).