Dundalk head coach Stephen O’Donnell has warned his players – and the club’s supporters – against complacency as they prepare to welcome struggling UCD to Oriel Park.
The Lilywhites, who sit 10 points behind league leaders Shamrock Rovers, albeit with two games in hand, are looking to make it eight home wins on the bounce when Andy Myler’s side come to town on Friday night.
With just one win and nine points from their opening 20 games, the Students are rooted to the bottom of the table but they are clinging stubbornly to the coattails of Finn Harps, who sit just three points ahead of them in the playoff spot.
After winning promotion last season, Myler’s charges have found life in the top flight difficult this season but they still carry a threat, as Dundalk know only too well from the last meeting between the sides at the UCD Bowl in May.
Two-nil up with half an hour to play, the Lilywhites were pegged back as a brace from Colm Whelan, who will miss the rest of the campaign with a knee injury, secured UCD just their fifth draw of the campaign and O’Donnell said that Dundalk could take nothing for granted on Friday evening.
“The consensus might be that UCD are struggling because they are bottom of the table but they have still been very competitive and only lost their last two games by a single goal.
“They are well organised, they are well-coached, they have good legs and they are enthusiastic. They’re also just three points behind Finn Harps who are in the playoff position. Some teams can find themselves with no hope and be marooned but that’s not the case with UCD and barring the game with Derry City at the Brandywell earlier in the season, they’ve been competitive every week.
“Nobody, players or supporters, should be complacent on Friday evening. We have got to remember where we have come from in the sense that we have made massive strides but we are still nowhere near the finished article and we have no right to be complacent.”
O’Donnell has also called on his side to bounce back from last week’s 0-0 draw against Shelbourne at Tolka Park where the Lilywhites passed up a number of gilt-edged opportunities to let two points slip away.
“We were all frustrated with last week’s scoreless draw at Tolka Park,” he said. “The main positives were that we completely controlled the first half and that we had Shels penned in and created a couple of big chances.
“Would I have liked us to have been more incessant in the second half and played more in their territory, banging the door down? Yes, I would have, and that’s a mentality thing that we are trying to breed into the players; really forcing your will home to get over the line and win the game.
“From a control standpoint, we were very good and created three or four great chances. If we take one of them, we win the game and that’s where the little bit of frustration came from.”
Greg Sloggett, who celebrates his 26th birthday on Sunday, is one of six former UCD players in the Dundalk ranks and he echoed O’Donnell’s sentiments.
“I think we know all about the calibre of player that UCD can produce. There’s enough of them here at the club here!’ he smiled.
“You can’t ever take UCD lightly. They’ve lost Colin Whelan to injury and Liam Kerrigan looks like he’s heading to Italy but in saying that they still produced a good display against Derry City last Friday night.
“We know that they can come with danger and we will have to be well equipped for that but we also know that if we focus and play to our ability, we have enough about us to win the game and get back on track.”