Tuesday 23 January 2018

Dundalk stretch lead at top

Goalscorers Patrick McEleney (left) and Daryl Horgan celebrate Photo: Sportsfile
Goalscorers Patrick McEleney (left) and Daryl Horgan celebrate Photo: Sportsfile

The result of this game never looked in doubt but Stephen Kenny could not relax until fifteen minutes from the end.

Daryl Horgan's insurance strike confirmed that Dundalk would extend their lead at the top of the table to ten points. They have played two games more than Cork.

Three days out from their Europa League group stage opener with AZ Alkmaar, Kenny fielded a strong side to ensure victory in what was arguably the easiest game left on their crowded schedule.

Parts of this encounter were like a training exercise as a depleted Finn Harps side that haven't won or scored in the league since July 8 arrived in Louth with a set-up that screamed damage limitation.

They lost 7-0 in the last meeting between these sides so Ollie Horgan knows what Dundalk can do.

He started with a five man defence and a crowded midfield in an attempt to be stubborn but Patrick McEleney's long range fifth minute strike removed suspense from the occasion.

AZ Alkmaar were not represented at this game; they earmarked last week's hard fought win in Sligo as the scouting opportunity.

They would have found it hard to learn anything conclusive from this elaborate game of attackers v defenders. Dundalk will be operating in a different stratosphere in Holland.

Harps stopper Ciaran Gallagher was their key man before the interval with a number of stops and the loss of striker Ruairi Keating to serious injury was a grim start to the second half for the Donegal club.

Horgan's mood darkened when he was sent to the stands after Gallagher was booked for timewasting. That was a harsh call, yet it gave an indication of how ref Neil Doyle viewed Harps' approach.

Kenny did get to rest skipper Stephen O'Donnell but he did send in Ronan Finn and he was central to the creation of Horgan's close range strike which gave Dundalk a win in their first home league match since July 5.

Shamrock Rovers and Derry will provide sterner tests next week. Before then, they face a trip to Holland to rub shoulders with opponents from a different world.

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