Dundalk have kept one clean sheet in first round of league fixtures, not exactly title winning form from the 2019 champions. The fluctuations between using a back three under previous managers Shane Keegan and Filippo Giovagnoli has not helped.
Now, under Jim Magilton four at the back has become the system of choice but the goals continue to trickle in at the wrong end.
Daniel Cleary arrived in 2018 and has become a pivotal cog in the Dundalk defence. “It meant a lot (having a strong defence) since the day I came here,” said Cleary.
“When I first came, we kept seven or eight clean sheets off my first seven or eight appearances, and I knew how important it was. Obviously winning the leagues over the years, that’s been the basis, is keeping clean sheets. That’s something we definitely need to improve on,” continued Cleary.
Last Monday’s 2-2 draw with Longford saw goalkeeper Peter Cherrie largely at fault for the concession of both goals. The rotation of goalkeepers has made it difficult for partnerships to develop between defenders and goalkeeper. However, it does not seem to worry the ex-Liverpool defender.
“It doesn’t really bother me that much. I can’t speak for the other lads but everyone that’s here is good enough to play so they wouldn’t be here otherwise.”
Confidence can only develop with positive results and even there though there has been the odd positive result here and there the Lilywhites have failed yet to string these results together.
“I think the clean sheets are massive part of it and we haven’t kept enough of them this year. We’ve only kept one out of nine so far, so the second round of games we are definitely looking to improve.”
“It hurts every time a goal goes in. We tried to leave the errors out but there has been a lot of errors in the first nine games, single errors that have cost us. That is something that we have to nip in the bud now and kick on now for the next nine games.”
The opening day of the season saw Dundalk travel to Sligo and pick up a point. The Bit O’Red have the opportunity to stretch the gap between the two teams to nine tomorrow. Three points is a must for the Oriel side.
“I think that it will boost the confidence, obviously we got two wins on the bounce and then the draw at the weekend took it out of us, but we did a good day’s training and looking to bounce back against Sligo.”
Young striker Johnny Kenny caused Dundalk all sorts of problems in the first fixture. Cleary and Co. will need to be on their toes to keep the hotshot striker at bay. Cleary is impressed with the youngsters starting to come through throughout the league.
“Yeah, it’s good to see a young lad (Johnny Kenny) in the league. Obviously, Val (Adedokun) made his debut at the weekend and we have little Ryan O’Kane here as well, two young lads that are very good prospects.
“There’s another good few good young players in the league, it’s great to see for everyone in the league and he (Johnny Kenny) looked sharp that night and I think we’ll have our hands full.”
Dundalk remain 13 points off rivals Shamrock Rovers. Stephen Bradley’s side do not look like dropping points so Dundalk will have to raise their level to reduce the gap.
“We need to go on a run of games, and everyone knows that. Everyone knows we need to get points on the board as quick as possible in the next nine games. Tomorrow (is a possibility) to get another three points, we need to get a run of games that’s very important.”
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