Dundalk FC U15 4-0 Longford Town U15
EA Sports U15 National Underage League Group B
Dundalk FC U15s face Derry City in the EA SPORTS National League of Ireland Cup on Sunday afternoon looking to build on a brilliant league performance against Longford Town at Oriel Park on Thursday night.
Head coach Conor Woods made two changes from the draw with Galway United in their previous game, as Jack McLaughlin came into the side in place of Ryan Kelly and Dino Costin replaced Adam Mullins.
The Lilywhites got off to an excellent start, as they controlled the ball and found gaps in the Longford midfield to play through in the early minutes, and it became the perfect start after six minutes when Luke Alison burst through on right before crossing into the box. His ball found the head of Dino Costin, whose effort hit the bar only to fall kindly into the path of Jack O’Flaherty, who made no mistake by volleying his effort home to give the hosts the lead.
Dundalk continued to dominate after the opening goal. They pinned Longford back in their own half and c0nstantly forced them into mistakes as they struggled to break through the excellent pressing from Woods’ side.
It wasn’t long before Dundalk scored their second goal of the night, as they exposed the gaps in the Longford defence to get the ball to Costin, whose cutback was buried by Sam Case to double their advantage and leave the visitors with a mountain to climb.
The Lilywhites continued to dominate for the remainder of the half, with Longford barely getting out of their own half due to some excellent defensive work from Dundalk. A third goal looked to be on the horizon, and it arrived just after the half-hour mark. As has been the norm this season, they scored from another well-worked set-piece routine. The corner was played short and after a lot of movement in the box, the ball was whipped in for Sam Case to nod in a free header in the middle of the box to make it 3-0.
They very nearly added a fourth before the break, when Luke Alison – who was superb all evening – whipped another quality ball into the box, but Jake Hough fired it over.
After some encouraging words from Woods at half-time, Dundalk continued the second half in the same vein as the first, as they dominated throughout the half once more.
The half nearly got off to the perfect start, as another set-piece routine almost came off. The ball was whipped in and found Luke Povall free at the back post, but he failed to connect with what looked to be a certain goal.
It wasn’t long before they found the fourth goal though, as Luke O’Neill’s cross looped over the head of goalkeeper Peter Doyle and into the net.
The Lilywhites had a number of chances after that goal, with opportunities for Case to complete his hat-trick going amiss and a couple of chances for substitute Ryan Kelly going narrowly wide.
Longford continued to struggle and didn’t manage to register a shot throughout the game, as Dundalk saw it out to secure all three points and a first clean sheet of the season in a dominant performance.
Speaking after the game, Conor Woods was very pleased with his side’s overall performance.
“Overall, it was a great performance from each and every player,” he said. “Everyone played a great part in the victory. The win is important, but we’re always looking at how we perform, so it’s great to get the result on top of such a good performance.
“Longford came here looking to defend well, so it was on us to move them and create space, which I think we did very well. We did that for the opening goal, where we moved the ball wide for Luke Alison, who put in a great ball to make it easy for the finish.
“When you get into the final third, it’s important that you work on those runs, and tonight they came off. We look at that nearly every week and tonight the execution of the pass and the finish was there, which is all you can ask for.”
With yet another goal coming from a set piece, Woods gave credit to his coaching staff, who have put the quality routines together.
“That’s credit to Sean Moore, the staff have been excellent in coming up with set pieces and the players have executed them very well. It’s something that we hold close to our hearts and something that can be a real weapon for us over the rest of the season.
“If we can keep going this way in terms of set-pieces then we’ll always have a chance against teams, because you’ll always get a set-piece and a chance, regardless of who you’re playing so it’s a key attribute of ours and something we’ll keep improving on going forward.”
After keeping their first clean sheet of the season, Woods is hoping it’ll be a boost in morale after an excellent defensive display alongside their attacking quality.
“That’s the first clean sheet of the group tonight and that’s massive for the group in relation to the morale of the team, especially for Daniel Ivenchenko in goal. To get a clean sheet, on top of a great attacking performance, is something we have to build on now.
“We go to Derry on Sunday in the cup, which will be a tough trip, they are a top side. We defended brilliantly tonight, but we’ll have to be right at it on Sunday to keep Derry out.
“Derry are doing very well in their group, so it’ll be a tough test, but morale is high now after that win so if we can bring that confidence into Sunday’s game and look to put in a good performance, that’s all we can ask for. It will be a tough test but I have faith in everyone to go up there and put in a good performance on Sunday.”
DUNDALK FC U15: Daniel Ivenchenko, Luke Povall, Luke Alison, Ben Miller, Jack O’Neill, Jack McLoughlin, Damien Balsic, Jack O’Flaherty, Jake Hough, Dino Costin, Sam Case. Subs: Thomas Brady, Tom McLoughlin, Ryan Kelly, Cathal Corcoran, Kuba Layton, Adam Mullins.