After exiting the Champions League in midweek, Dundalk’s hopes of a quick return to that competition look bleak following yesterday’s defeat to Sligo Rovers at the Showgrounds.
Nine points off the leaders Shamrock Rovers, Dundalk now find themselves just two points ahead of yesterday’s opponents in third — all the more striking when you consider Sligo Rovers were rock bottom when the league resumed.
John Gill and Alan Reynolds took charge ahead of yesterday’s tie following Vinny Perth’s departure after the Lilywhites’ midweek loss in Budapest, and Reynolds admitted it has been tough.
“It’s been a difficult week for everyone. For the players, losing the manager that signed them,” he said.
“Things just aren’t going our way at the minute and that is disappointing.
“The group are working really hard, just not getting the break of the ball. There is no easy way out of it, you can only work hard.
“The players haven’t faced a slump like this for a long time, so it is asking different questions of them, but there is real quality there.
“The club obviously wants to get the right man to take charge now.
“If he comes from abroad the quarantine thing might come into it, if he is from here he can come straight in obviously, so for us, we’ll just carry on until we are told differently,” added Reynolds.
Dundalk had plenty of chances and possession in the Showgrounds, not least when Patrick Hoban saw his first half spot-kick saved.
The visitors were 1-0 down but dominating at that stage, but Ed McGinty’s fine block from Patrick Hoban’s powerful spot-kick stalled their momentum.
And with Ryan de Vries and Junior Ogedi-Owokwe adding to Regan Donelon’s opener in the second half, the home side claimed a win that moved them to fourth in the table, with four wins from five games since the restart.
The first action for Dundalk goalkeeper Gary Rogers was to pick the ball out of his net on 12 minutes, after full-back Donelon smashed a free-kick low into the bottom corner from the edge of the box.
The Rovers goal lived a charmed life for the remainder of the half, but somehow the home side came out of it unscathed, thanks to the penalty save and a dramatic goal-line clearance.
That came when Kyle Callan-McFadden threw himself in front of Daniel Kelly’s close-range effort and got the vital block when an equaliser seemed certain.
Rovers started the second half well, and claimed a brilliant second on 50 minutes, as David Cawley powered from the middle, latched onto Ronan Coughlan’s pass and crossed superbly for Ryan de Vries to smash home at the back post.
Dundalk reacted with a double-change as attackers Nathan Oduwa and Stefan Colovic came in, but the hosts had a third just after the hour-mark as Cawley’s set-piece exposed Dundalk’s makeshift defence, and Junior Ogedi-Ozokwe headed home his first goal for the club.
Hoban won another penalty with 15 minutes left, but opted to leave this one to Colovic, who sent McGinty the wrong way.
But that was all Dundalk managed, as another substitute David McMillan missed the target with a close-range header in added time.
SLIGO: McGinty, Banks, Callan-McFadden, Penninkangas, Donelon (Cooper h-t), Morahan, Cawley, De Vries (Olberkis 86), Devers (Noone 70), Ogedi-Ozokwe, Coughlan.
DUNDALK: Rogers, Hoare, Gartland (Oduwa 54), Cleary (Massey 60), Leahy, Shields, McEleney, Mountney, Kelly (Colovic 54), Duffy(Murray 82), Hoban (McMillan 82).
REF: R Hennessy.
League of Ireland
The local issue of a Dublin derby is proving to be a real stumbling block for Shamrock Rovers’ ambitions of becoming national champions, the league leaders frustrated by one of their local rivals for the second time in six days.