Miserable Night In The West as Sligo Put Lilywhites To The Sword
A miserable week for the club came to a demoralising end on Saturday evening as Dundalk were put to the sword by a rampant Sligo Rovers side who ran out deserving 3-1 winners at The Showgrounds.
Three nights after the Champions League exit to NK Celje in Hungary – and 48 hours after the departure of manager Vinny Perth – things went from bad to worse as the Lilywhites slipped to their fourth league defeat of the season, and a third in five games.
With Alan Reynolds and John Gill at the helm, Dundalk made the trip west looking to make up some ground on the top two but they were undone again by some woeful defending and a lack of real creativity in the final third.
The result moves the Bit o’Red into fourth place, just two points behind Dundalk in the SSE Airtricity League table, and with the title gone, the Lilywhites face a real dogfight to secure European qualification for next season.
With Daniel Cleary, John Mountney and Daniel Kelly all restored to the starting XI, the night started in a positive fashion and Michael Duffy’s early free-kick just evaded the incoming Brian Gartland and Darragh Leahy in the penalty area.
A big, big chance fell their way in the ninth minute. Some clever play by Sean Hoare and Duffy on the right ended with the winger picking out the unmarked Kelly in the middle but he headed badly off target from just 10 yards out.
That early momentum was checked when Liam Buckley’s men pulled ahead with their first chance of the game. Daniel Cleary was penalised for an off the ball foul on Ronan Coughlan on the edge of the box and Regan Donelon bent his free-kick around the wall and into the bottom corner with 12 minutes played
Lifted by that goal, the Bit o’Red went within inches of adding a second shortly after when Junior set up Ryan De Vries but the New Zealand native dragged his effort agonisingly wide of Gary Rogers’ right-hand post.
The reigning champions responded with a good spell of pressure and Kelly had another gilt-edged opportunity when he looked set to capitalise on a mistake by McGinty but Kyle McFadden was there to hack his goalbound effort off the line.
Dundalk continued to push and it looked like they were handed a route back into the game on the half-hour when Teemu Penninkangas handled a Duffy free-kick but McGinty flung himself to his right to push Hoban’s penalty over the top.
It was the third time the big goalkeeper had saved a Hoban spot-kick and it seemed to suck the life out of the visitors who struggled to put a move of note together before referee Robert Hennessy brought the play to a halt at the break.
Dundalk emerged for the second half earlier than the hosts but they were caught cold within six minutes of the restart when De Vries raced in at the far post to meet a Coughlan cross and he guided a superb finish past Rogers.
That left Dundalk with a mountain to climb and they were dealt another heavy blow on the hour mark when Daniel Cleary limped off with a hamstring injury after going down in pursuit of Coughlan, who was subsequently denied by Rogers.
The result was put to bed two minutes later when Junior found himself in acres of space to guide a free-kick past the stranded Rogers and although Stefan Colovic pulled one back from the penalty spot with 14 minutes left on the clock, Sligo saw it out comfortably to put the cap on a miserable week.
SLIGO ROVERS: Ed McGinty; Lewis Banks, Teemu Penninkangas, Kyle McFadden, Regan Donelon (Alex Cooper HT); David Cawley, Niall Morahan; Ryan De Vries (Sigitas Olberkis 85), Ronan Coughlan, Junior; Jesse Devers. Subs not used: Luke McNichols (GK), Darragh Noone, Mark Byrne, John Russell, Ronan Murray.
DUNDALK FC: Gary Rogers; Sean Hoare, Brian Gartland (Stefan Colovic 53), Daniel Cleary (Dane Massey 60), Darragh Leahy; Chris Shields, John Mountney; Daniel Kelly (Nathan Oduwa 53), Patrick McEleney, Michael Duffy (Sean Murray 82); Patrick Hoban (David McMillan 82). Subs not used: Aaron McCarey (GK). Jordan Flores.
REFEREE: Robert Hennessy.