Stephen O’Donnell has called on Dundalk to go and ‘really attack’ the final 10 league games of the season, starting with the visit of Sligo Rovers on Friday night.
The Lilywhites were held to a frustrating 1-1 draw by Shelbourne at Oriel Park on Sunday, a result that leaves O’Donnell’s side three points adrift of fourth-placed Derry City, who have a game in hand, and five behind third-placed Bohemians, but the Dundalk head coach believes there will be plenty of twists and turns ahead over the coming months.
“There are 30 league points up for grabs between now and the end of the season and we’re still involved in the FAI Cup so there’s an awful lot to play for between now and the start of November,” said O’Donnell.
“There was a bit of an empty feeling after the 1-1 draw with Shelbourne last Sunday. From a points perspective, draws don’t do an awful lot for your league position but it kept a bit of momentum going.
“It leaves us outside the top four but we know if we do our business right, we’ll have lots of opportunities to close the gap because the teams ahead of us will be playing each other over the coming weeks.
“We just need to focus on ourselves and we need to go on a good run between now and the end of the season to try and force our way into those positions.”
Summer signings Darren Brownlie, Daryl Horgan and Sam Durrant all featured against Shels, and O’Donnell believes that Dundalk are well equipped for the run-in.
“We got 88 minutes out of Daryl on Sunday, which will be a huge benefit going forward. We threw him in a bit early but I felt he would have the adrenaline to get through it and he showed some really good moments. Once we get the skeleton around him a bit slicker, we will see the best of him.
“Darren also came in for his first start and he went and won a lot of his headers and was very aggressive. He hasn’t played since the start of June and hasn’t done loads of training with us as our sessions were interrupted with the schedule but he’s another one that will come on from that.
“We’re down to one game a week from here until the end of the season so it’ll allow us to do a good bit of work on the training ground with Darren, Daryl and Sam Durrant, who did well when he came off the bench late on Sunday.”
With Robbie Benson expected to return to training within a fortnight, and John Mountney and Keith Ward making good progress on their respective injuries, O’Donnell’s options could be further bolstered at just the right time of the season.
“The squad is looking really strong so we just have to be a bit slicker and cohesive in our play all over the park, starting on Friday night against Sligo,” he said.
“They were beaten by St Patrick’s Athletic at The Showgrounds last week but they had good spells in the game and we know it’s going to be a very tough game.”
Team News: Connor Malley is available after missing the 1-1 draw with Shelbourne with a knock. Robbie Benson is expected to return to training in the next couple of weeks while John Mountney and Keith Ward are making good progress from their respective ailments.