Thursday 23 November 2017

Rovers out of title race as Dundalk edge closer

Stephen O'Donnell, Dundalk, celebrates at the end of the game
Stephen O'Donnell, Dundalk, celebrates at the end of the game

EIGHT points clear and seven games left, it seems as if nothing will stop Dundalk from retaining the league title this season.

The champions are not having things all their own way and, just like in last week's draw against Bohemians, they had to dig deep to get their reward at home to Shamrock Rovers last night.

A touch of class up front and some very good defending did the trick for the league leaders, worthy of their 2-0 win at home to Shamrock Rovers in front of a crowd of 3,956, the biggest gate of the season at Oriel Park.

The win here restored Dundalk's eight-point lead and defeat for Rovers ended any faint hopes they had of a title push (they're now 15 points adrift), so only a strong finish from Cork City can deny Dundalk that second successive title - though on this form it's hard to see anyone stopping the champions.

It took the home side just 18 minutes to take the lead, and it was an ex-Hoop who did the damage. A slack Dave Webster pass to Gary McCabe yielded possession in a key area, the ball fell to Ronan Finn and he showed poise to finish well past his old team-mate Barry Murphy, Finn's first goal since May. It could have been 2-0 just two minutes later, Murphy saving well from a Richie Towell effort.

Rovers, keen to stay in contention for a European place at least, soon sparked a revival. On 28 minutes a Brandon Miele shot was kept out by keeper Gary Rogers, and on 34 minutes the away side threatened again. Brian Gartland did well to block the run of Danny North, the ball rebounded to Gavin Brennan and the Louth native saw his effort palmed away by Rogers.

A home win was in reach but a second goal would make sure than that arrived on 68 minutes, another ex-Hoop, Sean Gannon, the defender with the striker's touch as he finished off a move initiated by David McMillan, that goal knocking back Rovers as Dundalk march on.

dundalk 2 shamrock rovers 0

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