Dundalk’s first-ever trip to Gibraltar ended in a stalemate as the Lilywhites and FCB Magpies played out a scoreless draw in their UEFA Europa Conference League first qualifying round first-leg tie in very difficult conditions at Victoria Park on Thursday.
With temperatures in and around 30 degrees at kickoff, both sets of players found it difficult in front of a crowd of almost 900 people, around a third of them from Dundalk.
Stephen O’Donnell’s men enjoyed plenty of the ball in the opening stages and they were kept at bay by Magpies goalkeeper Jaylan Hankins who made a fine double save to deny Ryan O’Kane and Daniel Kelly shortly after Johannes Yli-Kokko went close with the opening chance of the game.
Under the guidance of new coach, Alfonso Cortijo, the Magpies looked dangerous on the counter and they created a number of good chances on either side of the interval.
Jack Storer, who posed a threat until he was withdrawn at the break, looked to have opened the scoring just past the half-hour when he rounded Nathan Shepperd and pulled his foot back to roll the ball home but Darragh Leahy recovered brilliantly to clear the ball off the line.
The second half was just 30 seconds old when Joseph Chipolina’s cross from the left picked out Jose Giraldez but he couldn’t hit the target with Shepperd exposed and they went close again when Kyle Casciaro fired a volley straight down the Welshman’s throat.
Both sides created a number of half chances towards the end with Magpies’ Liam Nash squandering the best one when he broke clear but the game ended in a draw to leave Dundalk in the box seat ahead of the second leg at Oriel Park.
FCB MAGPIES: Jaylan Hankins; Andre Dos Santos, Ruben Diaz, Olmo Gonzalez, Joseph Chipolina (Scott Ballantine 89); Jamie Coombes, Carlos Garcia, Joe (Dan Bent 74), Kyle Casciaro (Juan Arguez 60); Jack Storer (Liam Nash HT), José Giraldez (Anthony Hernandez 74). Subs not used: Matthew Silva (GK), Francisco Zuniga, Scott Ballantine, Julian Del Rio, Luke Bautista, Shay Jones.
DUNDALK FC: Nathan Shepperd; Archie Davies, Andy Boyle, Louie Annesley, Darragh Leahy; Greg Sloggett, Connor Malley; Daniel Kelly, Johannes Yli-Kokko (John Martin 87), Ryan O’Kane (Alfie Lewis 73); Patrick Hoban. Subs not used: Peter Cherrie (GK), Mark Byrne (GK), Hayden Muller, Robbie McCourt, Paul Doyle, Anthony Moyo, Mayowa Animasahun.
REFEREE: Mohammad Usman Aslam (Norway).