Seán O’Connor reports from Oriel Park
Jordan Gibson’s fabulous first half goal proved to be the difference as Sligo Rovers left Oriel Park with all three points having played for most of the second half with ten men.
After smashing the crossbar through Walter Figueira inside 10 minutes, The Bit O’ Red were in control for large periods this evening, and took full advantage of Dundalk’s lack of end product in the final third.
Despite the early second half red card for Garry Buckley, Rovers remained solid at the back and denied Dundalk any opportunity to equalise. The Lilywhite’s best chances came through Junior and Han but in truth, the visitors were well deserving of all three points.
Both sides began the game with decent periods of possession. 21-year-old shotstopper Ed McGinty had to be alert to Junior’s effort just three minutes in. Sligo settled the better of the two teams inside the opening quarter of an hour.
Rovers were inches away from taking a one goal lead as Figueira rattled the crossbar with a superb effort. Up the other end Junior and Han tested McGinty but to no avail.
Dundalk began to control the game as the half-hour mark approached but struggled to create any clear chances in the final third. Han, Junior and Wilfried Zahibo all contributed well but the Lilywhites still waited for a breakthrough.
A Sligo Rovers breakthrough almost came after Val Adedokun was dispossessed by Johnny Kenny. He raced through on goal, but Peter Cherrie stood tall to deny Rovers an opener.
Buckley was lucky not to see a straight red after a dangerous high challenge on Adedokun. The Rovers’ midfielder saw yellow as did captain Greg Bolger for his protests.
Five minutes before the break, and just as Dundalk were beginning to threaten again, Gibson picked up Romeo Parkes’ pass, spun past Andy Boyle and struck the ball into the bottom corner from 25 yards.
Questions will be asked if Cherrie could have done better at his near post, but there is no denying it was a superb finish after an end to end first half.
Sligo began the second half as they did the first, on the front foot putting Dundalk under pressure early on. Dundalk found themselves dispossessed very easily as Parkes and Figueira found good pockets of space.
However, disaster struck for the visiting side on 53 minutes, as Buckley picked up a second yellow for another high challenge, this time on Junior. It was just the bit of luck Dundalk needed, who in truth struggled to contain Rovers’ front line.
After lovely play down the left wing, Sean Murray found Daniel Kelly whose effort sailed high over the bar. Lilywhites captain Chris Sheilds was replaced by Patrick McEleney after the hour mark, as Dundalk piled on the pressure in search of an equaliser.
That said Sligo threatened up the other end too, with three corners in succession.
Michael Duffy, Raivis Jurkovskis and Murray had chances for Dundalk midway through the second half, but Rovers remained solid at the back; John Mahon and Lewis Banks playing well in particular.
Much like the first half, Dundalk were decent in the middle, but were totally lacking any creativity or ideas when it came around the Sligo box. In the final 10 minutes, all Dundalk could offer were route one crosses from Adedokun and Murray, most of which were cleared well by Rovers.
Playing with 10 men did not seem to faze the Bit O’ Red whatsoever, a sign of Liam Buckley’s excellent game management skills. Late Figueira tried his luck from inside his own half with Dundalk playing such a high line.
An equaliser almost came at the death, but McGinty produced two fantastic saves in added time to keep Rovers in front. RTÉ announced goal scorer Jordan Gibson as man of the match, but it could of easily went to the 21-year-old goalkeeper.
Robert Hennessy blew for full time at Oriel Park as Dundalk’s five game unbeaten run comes to an end. Rovers remain in third place and have now beaten Dundalk in three consecutive league games.
The defeat, their fourth of the season, leaves the Lilywhites in sixth place, although Bohemians can overtake them with a win at home to Finn Harps on Saturday.
Dundalk: Peter Cherrie; Raivis Jurkovskis, Daniel Cleary, Andy Boyle; Han Jeongwoo (Daniel Kelly 56), Michael Duddy, Sean Murray, Chris Sheilds (c) (Patrick McEleney 66), Wilfred Zahibo; Val Adedokun, Junior (Ole Erik Midtskogen 80).
Subs not used: Alessio Abibi, Darragh Leahy, Enda Douglas.
Booked: Daniel Kelly (79)
Sligo Rovers: Edward McGinty; Robbie McCourt, John Mahon, Lewis Banks; Niall Morahan, Jordan Gibson, Garry Buckley, Greg Bolger ©; Romeo Parkes (Shane Blaney 55), Johnny Kenny (Colm Horgan 74), Walter Figueira.
Subs not used: Richard Brush, Scott Lynch, Regan Donelon; David Cawley; Cillian Heaney, Ryan De Vries, Darren Collins.
Booked: Garry Buckley (35 & 53), Greg Bolger (35)
Sent off: Garry Buckley (53)
Referee: Robert Hennessy
ExtraTime.ie Player of the Match: Jordan Gibson (Sligo Rovers)