Shelbourne 0 Dundalk 0
Dundalk lost ground on champions Shamrock Rovers at the summit of the SSE Airtricity League Premier Division table after playing out a scoreless draw with Shelbourne at Tolka Park.
Five points adrift with a game in hand coming into this tie, the Lilywhites’ failure to break down a stubborn Shels side – coupled with the Hoops’ slender triumph over Bohemians in Tallaght – puts a dent in their title aspirations.
Following last week’s superb victory against Rovers at Oriel Park, Dundalk boss Stephen O’Donnell unsurprisingly kept changes to the bare minimum. In the only alteration to his starting line-up, David McMillan was drafted in to replace the injured Patrick Hoban up front.
Shels supremo Damien Duff made two switches from his team’s narrow defeat to north Dublin rivals Bohemians seven days earlier – Sean Boyd and Brian McManus taking over from JR Wilson and Aodh Dervin respectively.
Although scoring opportunities were few and far between for the majority of the opening period, Shels had cause to breathe a massive sigh of relief just past the half hour. Robbie Benson looked set to grab his second goal in as many games when a delicate flick by Daniel Kelly put him clean through on the target, but the Westmeath native’s shot was the wrong side of the left-hand post.
While the deadlock ultimately remained unbroken at the interval, Dundalk had another glorious chance to take the lead six minutes into the second half. McMillan stretched to meet a superb delivery on the right-flank only to see his strike drifting agonisingly wide.
Shels had their own moments of promise in attack and Dundalk netminder Nathan Shepperd was called into action to deny Boyd in the final-quarter.
Shepperd was also forced off the line to prevent substitute Dervin from making a telling connection off a Boyd knock-down, but even though there was no lack of intent in a frantic finale, both sides ultimately had to settle for a share of the spoils in the end.
SHELBOURNE – Clarke; O’Driscoll, Byrne, Griffin; Farrell, Lunney, McManus (Ledwidge 82), Kane; Hakiki (Wilson 73); Boyd, Moylan (Dervin 77).
DUNDALK – Shepperd; Macari, Connolly, Boyle, Leahy; Sloggett, Benson, Doyle (Ward 67); Bradley, McMillan (Martin 59), Kelly (O’Kane 82).
REF – R Hennessy (Dublin).