Defensive errors proved to be Dundalk’s undoing yet again as Tommy Lonergan’s brace helped St Patrick’s Athletic to a 3-1 win at Richmond Park.
The result, Dundalk’s 11th defeat of the campaign, leaves the Lilywhites sitting sixth in the SSE Airtricity Men’s Premier Division table, 10 points off third-placed Pat’s, with just six games to play.
After the previous week’s FAI Cup horror show in Galway, Stephen O’Donnell demanded a response from his players and nobody could fault the effort in the opening 45 minutes as Dundalk controlled large periods and the only thing missing from their first-half display was a goal.
Daryl Horgan had the clearest sighting when he pulled a pass from Johannes Yli-Kokko down on his chest and turned to let fly but his effort flashed just wide of the upright. Shortly after, Daniel Kelly saw his drive brilliantly pushed around the post by Pat’s goalkeeper Dean Lyness.
With Greg Sloggett and Robbie Benson deployed at centre-back and left-back respectively, Dundalk’s back four had an unfamiliar look about it but they gave up little in the first period with Chris Forrester’s early strike correctly ruled out for offside.
The game was turned on its head in the space of eight second-half minutes as Dundalk were undone by two long balls from the right, the first coming just four minutes after the restart.
Hayden Muller failed to deal with Joe Redmond’s direct ball and Lonergan raced clear to steer his effort past Nathan Shepperd. It was the 20th time that Dundalk had conceded the opening goal in their 30 league games to date.
The second arrived via a similar route eight minutes later when Sloggett was caught on the hop by a punt forward from Lyness and Lonergan lifted the ball over Shepperd to send the natives wild.
Daniel Kelly pulled the Lilywhites back into it with 15 minutes to play when he raced on to an Archie Davies pass to slide the ball past Lyness for his fifth goal in as many games.
However, Dundalk’s hopes of getting back on level terms were dealt a huge blow when Robbie Benson was sent off for a second yellow card eight minutes later and substitute Mason Melia put some gloss on the scoreline when he converted a stoppage-time penalty.
ST PATRICK’S ATHLETIC: Dean Lyness, Anthony Breslin, Joe Redmond, Jamie Lennon, Chris Forrester (Kian Leavy 83), Thomas Lonergan (Conor Carty 68), Jason McClelland (Mark Doyle 68), Jake Mulraney (Mason Melia 83), Carl Sjoberg (David Norman 22), Sam Curtis, Adam Murphy. Subs not used: Danny Rogers (GK), Ben McCormack, Alex Nolan, Thijs Timmermans.
DUNDALK FC: Nathan Shepperd, Archie Davies, Daniel Kelly (Cameron Elliott 90), Robbie Benson, Patrick Hoban, Greg Sloggett, John Martin (Sam Durrant 66), Daryl Horgan (Ryan O’Kane 85), Hayden Muller, Johannes Yli-Kokko (Connor Malley 66), Paul Doyle (Alfie Lewis 85). Subs not used: Peter Cherrie (GK), Darragh Leahy, Robbie McCourt, John Mountney.
REFEREE: Damien MacGraith. ATTENDANCE: 3,921.