Gaynor finishes job for Dundalk
(Dundalk win 6-4 on agg)
IT didn't quite match the eight-goal feast served up at Windsor Park two weeks ago but last night's Setanta Cup second-leg tie between Dundalk and Linfield still provided plenty of drama.
At the end, a draw was enough to send Dundalk through to a quarter-final tie against Glentoran, with Ian Foster's men completing the groundwork with their 5-3 first-leg win in Belfast.
Last night's game marked Linfield's first return to Dundalk since the ill-fated meeting between the sides in 1979 which was marred by rioting.
Bar some minor incidents, the game passed off relatively smoothly and after a riveting 180 minutes of football over the two legs, let's hope it is not another 32 years before the sides meet again.
Linfield will look back and rue some shocking defensive errors that cost them dearly over the tie. Ross Gaynor's 11th-minute goal for Dundalk came just as the Blues looked to be gaining the upper hand. A slack backpass and a weak defensive header later cost Linfield dear.
Aidan O'Kane was the chief culprit, his pass lacking the pace to reach his goalkeeper Alan Blayney. Jason Byrne, showing all his predatory instincts, swooped to round Blayney but even then, Linfield still had the chance to clear Byrne's centre. William Murphy failed to do so effectively and Gaynor was on hand to sweep Murphy's poor defensive header to the back of the net.
Linfield kept plugging away and Peter Cherrie had to make a good save to stop Robert Garrett's 20-yard drive in the 15th minute. Eight minutes later and Oriel Park was almost rocking for a second time only for Mark Quigley's audacious effort from all of 35 yards to kiss the crossbar with Blayney well beaten.
The Irish League champions thought they were back in the tie when Marcus Kane's sweetly struck effort in the 32nd minute whistled just past the post.
They were, however, thrown a lifeline in stoppage-time at the end of the first half. Kane's corner fell into a crowd of bodies at the back post and Michael Gault prodded the ball over the line.
The second-half proved less entertaining with Dundalk happy to soak up any Linfield pressure and hit on the counter-attack.
It was the visitors who urgently probed for openings and they should have reduced the aggregate deficit to the minimum when Garrett stole in between Shane Guthrie and Colin Hawkins to meet Jim Ervin's cross only to head badly off target.
DUNDALK -- Cherrie; Madden, Guthrie, Hawkins, Osborne; Bolger (Ward 81), Bennett; Kearns, Quigley, Gaynor (Maher 61); Byrne.
LINFIELD -- Blayney; Ervin, Murphy, Armstrong, O'Kane; Mulgrew, Garrett, Gault, Kane (Allen 77); McAllister, Thompson.
REF -- D Hancock (Dublin).