Ciaran Kilduff makes his mark in Dundalk win over Bray Wanderers
For 74 minutes of last night’s game at the Carlisle Grounds, the frustration levels amongst the Dundalk contingent were reaching boiling point, but that was until Stephen Kenny played his trump card.
Bray Wanderers 0 Dundalk 1
Ciaran Kilduff had struggled to make an impression in the first half of the season with St Pat’s but it took him less than 10 minutes to make his mark for his new club.
For the fourth time in his career, Kilduff scored on his debut, and this goal could well have a major say in where the title ends up.
Dundalk had squandered a host of chances but when Kenny introduced Kilduff from the bench, his side played with a renewed sense of vigour and belief.
Daryl Horgan was the Lilywhites’ brightest spark all evening and it was his cross that created Kilduff’s winner.
He skipped by Hugh Douglas on the left flank and sent a cross on to the head of Kilduff, who still had plenty of work to do to beat Peter Cherrie.
The visitors were far from their fluid best but just look all good champions, they found a win to win against a dogged defence.
The Seagulls may be going through turbulent times off the pitch but on it, they continue to impress under Mick Cooke. They looked nothing like the side annihilated 8-1 at Oriel Park back in May .
Although they repelled the relentless Dundalk pressure for large parts, they struggled to get any sort of foothold in the final third.
Dundalk dominated the opening half but lacked the cutting edge to break down a resolute Bray defence.
Ronan Finn found himself unmarked inside the six-yard box but he flashed a header wide on four minutes, which set the tone for a frustrating half for the league leaders. Horgan almost broke the deadlock with a fierce shot that flew narrowly wide.
The former Lilywhites keeper was called into action twice in the space of 10 minutes before the break. He first saved comfortably from Dave McMillan before he pulled off a brilliant save from a dipping Finn shot.
Kenny must have wondered how his side didn’t go into the interval ahead after they rattled the crossbar twice in the space of 15 seconds.
Finn showed great feet to skip by Alan McNally before he cracked a shot off the woodwork and the rebound fell to Horgan, who bent a curling shot off almost the identical spot.
There was no let up in the second half and Richie Towell – who was unusually quiet – almost made the pressure count, but he couldn’t finish from a tight angle after rounding Cherrie.
Two minutes later, Towell couldn’t connect with Darren Meenan’s cross and the rebound fell perfectly for Horgan but again he spurned the opportunity and volleyed harmlessly wide.
As the frustrations began to grow among the travelling support, Bray almost stunned them when Chris Lyons twice went close to snatching a lead that would have been totally against the run of play.
His initial shot was deflected behind by Brian Gartland and from the resulting corner, he fired a shot narrowly wide.
David Cassidy flashed a volley over the bar and just as the home fans began to believe that a shock was on the cards, Dundalk were sparked into life again and Kilduff didn’t take long to announce his arrival as he headed home to spark joyous scenes among the noisy away fans.
Towell had the chance to seal all three points when he linked well with Kilduff but he lacked the composure to beat Cherrie one-on-one.
Bray continued to push for an equaliser but the closest they came was a long-range David Scully shot that went wide.
Bray’s four game winning run comes to an end but for Dundalk, this was the kind of win that they may well look back on at the end of the season as being one of the most crucial.
Bray Wanderers – Cherrie; Douglas, McNally, Cooney, Barker; Sullivan, Cassidy (c), McEvoy, McGlynn (McDonagh 76); Kelly; Lyons (Scully 68).
Dundalk – Rogers; Gannon, Gartland, Boyle, Massey; Meenan (Mountney 87), O’Donnell (c), Towell, Horgan; Finn (Shields 81); McMillan (Kilduff 63).
Ref – G Kelly (Cork)