Sunday 18 March 2018

Foster looks for more of the same in Oriel return


ORIEL PARK has been the setting for some memorable nights of European football -- and it's set to host another instalment on Thursday (7.45) following Dundalk's 3-3 draw at CS Grevenmacher in Luxembourg last Thursday night in the Europa League.

Manager Ian Foster, who was making his debut at this level, had a simple game plan: "I wanted us to play at a high tempo and keep on the front foot, in the style of a British or Irish Cup tie rather than a European tie," he explained. "The lads were excellent, but eventually the conditions hurt us. It was stifling hot and after 60 minutes it started to take its toll."

Dundalk led 2-0 at that stage, but three minutes later, the hosts scored in what Foster believes were controversial circumstances.

"Nathan Murphy was down injured, and they wouldn't put the ball out of play, so we had to give away a free to get him treatment. From the free, they won a corner, and the referee wouldn't let us bring on our substitute Ciarán McGuigan."

A man down defending the corner, Dundalk conceded a goal from a header. No wonder Foster was aggrieved.

However, he refuses to be downhearted and admitted: "If someone had offered us three away goals before the game, I would have taken them. And I can assure you we'll go out and try to win the game on Thursday, even though a 0-0 draw would do. That's the way we approach every game and we're not going to change our approach now."

Of their Europa venture, Foster said: "It's a massive occasion for me, the players and staff and the town. It breaks the monotony of the League, and introduces us to a completely different way of playing, different players, referees, and countries. My hope is that our players get used to it, because that will mean they are successful."

However, Foster has to plan the rest of his campaign without midfield general JJ Melligan, who has agreed terms with Cheltenham Town. While he hopes to replace the Dubliner, he revealed that it won't be a "like for like" replacement.

"Having been bought out of his contract by Leyton Orient, JJ came to Dundalk as a favour for me, but he wasn't on a lot of money. I'm looking everywhere for a replacement, but the deadline for Europe is Thursday, and I don't think I'll have anybody signed by then."

Of more immediate concern is the ankle injury which Murphy, the side's teenage full-back, suffered. "I'm hoping he will be okay for the League game with Drogheda on Monday."

Murphy, who is a target of Blackburn Rovers, has just finished his Leaving Cert and Foster said: "Because of his studies we didn't see a lot of him, but we should see an awful lot more of him now."

Three Dundalk players -- Wayne Hatswell, Alan Cawley and Michael McGowan -- carry yellow cards into Thursday's game. A second-round qualifier against Levski Sofia awaits the winners.

Sunday Independent

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