Ciaran Fisher reports from Oriel Park
A brace each from Sean Murray and Patrick Hoban saw Dundalk run out deserved 4-1 winners over Sligo at Oriel Park on Friday night.
The Lilywhites carried some momentum and confidence from their FAI Cup quarter-final win on Tuesday into this match to put in a real shift for the returning fans.
Dundalk played their second game in Oriel Park in four days thanks to that FAI Cup replay against Harps.
With that game going into extra-time and Michael Duffy picking up a niggle to add to a lengthy list of worries you could be forgiven for expecting a jaded performance.
The on-pitch effort was anything but that however, and the return of the fans proved an able tonic for any tired legs. The Dundalk players cited them as a 12th man against Harps and they were in fine voice again tonight.
Dundalk looked a very different side than the one that has been floundering and self-sabotaging in recent games.
The Lilywhites broke the deadlock of tentative opening phases -thanks to a clinical finish from man of the moment, Sean Murray, his first time effort, from Ben Amar’s cross, brought Oriel alive on 12 minutes.
That lead was short lived, Dundalk had a lapse in defense when a long ball from the back resulted in a goal.
That being said, Johnny Kenny’s effort shouldn’t be depreciated, he held off Latvian international Raivis Jurkovskis to control a speculative pass, and poke past Peter Cherrie to equal things two minutes later.
It’s happened all too often this season, that Dundalk have crumpled to a setback or goal against the run of play, just ten days ago, they surrendered a lead to Sligo to lose 2-1 in the Showgrounds.
Not this time however as the home side got back in front in a matter of minutes. Patrick Hoban got a quickfire shot away from a Jurkovskis cross, which pinballed around the box before falling to Murray.
Murray picked his spot and fired home around a mob of red shots and Ed McGinty in the net for his 5th goal in 6 games.
The first half yielded very few clear-cut chances other than the goals but Dundalk looked much more comfortable and confident on the ball.
Liam Buckley’s side did go at Dundalk a bit more in the second half, but they were limited, by-and-large, to speculative efforts into the box.
The home side might have a bit of a defensive crisis at the moment, but it didn’t show on the pitch as they weathered all Sligo had to throw at them, makeshift center-back, Darragh Leahy, had a fine performance filling in.
The introduction of Melvin Lorenzen at half time, did give Raivis Jurkoviskis more to deal with down Dundalk’s right side, but Perth was able to counter with Michael Duffy on the hour-mark, to offset pressure on the opposite side of the pitch.
Duffy almost had an instant impact, orchestrating a one-on-one with McGinity, forcing a great save from the goalkeeper.
He turned provider in the next attack, when he crossed from the end line for Hoban to rattle home despite close attention from John Mahon, who may have got some purchase on it to help it home.
There was no doubt over who scored the last goal, Hoban picked the ball up from Duffy again and thundered a shot home from the edge of the box in the 95th minute.
It was to be the last action of note in the game and just desserts for the number nine’s efforts, and a home side that finished strong with two good efforts in the previous four minutes of added time.
After a long spell of poor form, Dundalk manage two big wins in four days. This win will certainly lift the spirits in the Louth town, but it was an imperative three points in the context of other results.
With Finn Harps and Waterford United also winning tonight, these three points stop Dundalk sinking further into their unexpected relegation quagmire. Many will be watching their next duel, with Bohemians, with interest to see if they can build on this form.
Dundalk: Peter Cherrie; Cameron Dummigan, Daniel Cleary, Darragh Leahy; Han Jeongwoo (Michael Duffy 54), Raivis Jurkovskis (Sonni Nattestad 88), Sean Murray, Will Patching (Mark Hanratty 88), Greg Sloggett; Patrick Hoban (c), Sami Ben Amar.
Subs not used: Cameron Yates, Enda Douglas, Mayowa Animasahun, Jack Kavanagh, Jeff Nwodo, Ebuka Kwelele .
Booked: Raivis Jurkovskis (81).
Sent off: None.
Sligo Rovers: Edward McGinty; John Mahon, Colm Horgan, Regan Donelon, Lewis Banks; Niall Morahan, Adam McDonnell, Walter Figueira (Mark Byrne 74); Andre Wright (Romeo Parkes 74), Johnny Kenny (Seamas Keogh 83), Ryan De Vries (Melvyn Lorenzen 46).
Subs not used: Richard Brush, Danny Kane, Scott Lynch, John Russell, Darren Collins.
Booked: Colm Horgan (73) Niall Morahan (76).
Sent off: None.
Referee: Robert Harvey
extratime.com Player of the Match: Patrick Hoban (Dundalk)