League Report: Dundalk FC 1 - 0 Sligo Rovers
- Tom O'Connor
- Sat, Aug 12 2023
Daniel Kelly's early header was the difference between Dundalk and Sligo Rovers at Oriel Park on Friday night as the Lilywhites moved level on points with fourth place Derry City.
With ten league games remaining ahead of kick off, these sides were looking in opposite directions for their end of season journeys - home side Dundalk trying to chase down a European spot by finishing in the top three while Sligo Rovers seeking to edge clear of a potential relegation play off spot.
A win apiece in the previous two league encounters between the sides meant that the game was always going to be a tight encounter and so it proved to be. Given a handful of changes on both sides, it was only natural that the game would take a while to settle down and when it did the biggest chances of the contest arrived.
First off it was the visitors and their Portuguese number nine. The towering Pedro Martelo connected with a deep left wing cross and nodded it back across the goal and beyond Nathan Shepperd’s far post with the Welshman beaten.
A moment later and Dundalk had launched an attack themselves down their right wing, attacking full back Archie Davies swung over a back post cross and Daniel Kelly hung in the air to head the ball to the net beyond Conor Walsh. The eighteen year old netminder was thrust into the starting lineup with Luke McNicholas heading to Wrexham on loan and his deputy Richard Brush suspended. The teenager, making only his second Premier Division start following a debut against Bohs last season, belied his inexperience at senior level with an assured performance between the sticks.
However, despite several other positives for the Bit O’Red including Reece Hutchinson’s first appearance since June, Fabrice Hartmann’s second showing since May and outing number two for Karl O’Sullivan since March, John Russell’s side failed to unduly trouble a Dundalk defence well marshalled by Darren Brownlie on his second start for the club.
The visitors well structured defensive setup stifled the Lilywhite attack to the chagrin of the home supporters who urged their side to get the ball forward at a quicker tempo than their visitors allowed. With the experienced duo of Greg Bolger and David Cawley snuffing out any prospective attacks down the middle and the repositioned pacy winger Frank Liivak shackling Dundalk’s lively wideman Ryan O’Kane, it was the overlapping Archie Davies who was responsible for most of Dundalk’s advances- the Englishman grabbed an assist for the winning goal and was responsible for seven of Dundalk’s sixteen crosses on the night.
With the home side having kept a single clean sheet in the league since defeating Sligo Rovers in their May encounter in the Showgrounds a dozen games ago, a one goal lead was a precarious one and, despite a couple of half chances to extend the score which were dealt with comfortably by Walsh, they were almost made to pay.
Having survived a penalty shout earlier in the second half, when Frank Liivak went tumbling under a challenge from substitute Johannes Yli-Kokko, and a longrange snapshot from Martelo which Shepperd comfortably stopeed, Dundalk had one final scare. Awarded a free kick halfway inside their own half with less than a minute of injury time remaining, Sligo pumped a ball long towards the Dundalk box where it broke to the feet of Kailin Barlow and the Rovers Academy product’s sweet strike arrowed towards the Dundalk net. Unfortunately for the westerners, it was too close to Shepperd and the former Brentford B captain swatted the ball away with referee Adriano Reale whistling for full time before he had a chance to gather the rebound.
For Stephen O’Donnell, it’s four points in their past two league games after exiting Europe and they travel to the Carlisle Grounds on Friday looking to progress in the FAI Cup full of confidence after beating Shamrock Rovers in the previous round. John Russell’s Sligo Rovers have a two week break before hosting Shelbourne as they look to narrow the ten point gap to the Dublin outfit who sit just ahead of them in sixth place in the Premier Division table.
Dundalk: Nathan Shepperd; Louie Annesley, Darren Brownlie, Archie Davies, Hayden Muller (Darragh Leahy 71); Daryl Horgan (Johannes Yli-Kokko 67), Daniel Kelly, Connor Malley, Ryan O'Kane, Greg Sloggett (Alfie Lewis 85); Patrick Hoban (John Martin 84).
Subs not used: Peter Cherrie, Andy Boyle, Paul Doyle, Sam Durrant, Cameron Elliott.
Booked: Louie Annesley (35), Connor Malley (85), Archie Davies (90).
Sent off: None.
Sligo Rovers: Conor Walsh; Frank Liivak, John Mahon, Niall Morahan, Nando Pijnaker; Greg Bolger, Johan Brannefalk (Fabrice Hartmann 59), Lukas Browning (Kailin Barlow 74) (Reece Hutchinson 74), David Cawley (Karl O'Sullivan 59), Stefan Radosavljevic; Pedro Martelo.
Subs not used: John Vahey, James Finnerty, Conor Campbell, Daire Patton, Bridel Bosakani.
Booked: Lukas Browning (51), Pedro Martelo (60).
Sent off: None.
Referee: Adriano Reale
extratime.com Player of the Match: Darren Brownlie
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