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Tuesday 7 February 2023 Dublin: 7°C
Donall Farmer/INPHO
# mind the gap
Ronan Finn spot on as under-par Dundalk see off Sligo
The league champions go three points clear.

Dundalk 1

Sligo Rovers 0

DUNDALK OPENED UP a three-point lead at the top of the SSE Airtricity League – for 24 hours at least – but were made to work for their victory against Sligo Rovers at Oriel Park.

The champions were under-par but for their failings on the night, Sligo didn’t do enough to warrant a first victory of the campaign. They are now winless in eight league outings. Ronan Finn’s penalty just before half time did the damage.

By this stage last season, Finn had yet to register a goal for what was then his new club. Now, he has four already and only prolific strikers Christy Fagan and Rory Patterson of St Pat’s and Derry City respectively have more.

In total, the midfielder scored seven goals in all competitions in his debut season at Oriel – five of those came in the final two months of a double winning campaign. In a Dundalk team adjusting to the loss of Richie Towell and the goals that be inevitably came to bring, Finn is stepping up as required.

His goal from the penalty spot came at the end of a first half that saw the home crowd – and Stephen Kenny, rarely absent from pacing the technical area – increasingly frustrated.

The home side frequently saw promising attacks ended by wasted passes and poor service into the duel-strikeforce of David McMillan and Ciaran Kilduff. Darren Meenan and Daryl Horgan were guilty of getting their final ball wrong on numerous occasions.

Dave Robertson’s men had gone the closest in the opening 45 when Kieran Sadlier, so impressive against Pats last week, whistled a free kick just wide of Gary Rogers’ post from 25 yards out.

Finn’s opener came on the stroke of half-time. From a Meenan corner, one which wasn’t en route to beating the first man, Mick Leahy was judged to have dragged Brian Gartland to the ground. Ben Connolly pointed to the spot and Ronan Finn sent Micheal Schlingermann the wrong way.

The last time the Sligo goalkeeper was at Oriel, he was in the Drogheda United side that shipped six in the league here last season. On that September day, five Dundalk goals came in the second half. There was no danger of that here. The visitors were more resolute, the home side nowhere near as fluent.

In the second half, Jimmy Keohane passed up a glorious opportunity to equalise when he skewed a shot just wide of the far post. After Meenan lost possession, Sligo broke and Liam Martin crossed but Keohane couldn’t take advantage.

Kenny’s side went closest to doubling their lead when Daryl Horgan curled a free kick just over the crossbar with his left foot, but Finn’s spot kick proved just enough.

DUNDALK: Gary Rogers, Sean Gannon, Brian Gartland, Andy Boyle, Dane Massey, Darren Meenan (John Mountney, 76), Stephen O’Donnell, Ronan Finn, Daryl Horgan, David McMillan, Ciaran Kilduff (Chris Shields, 58).

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Substitutes: Gabriel Sava, Paddy Barratt, Georgie Poynton, Michael O’Connor, Robbie Benson.

SLIGO ROVERS: Micheal Schlingermann, Tobi Adebayo-Rowling, Mick Leahy, Gary Boylan, Regan Donelan, Craig Rodden, John Russell (Philip Roberts, 69), Raffaele Cretaro (Jaanai Gordon, 28), Kieran Sadlier, Liam Martin, Jimmy Keohane.

Substitutes: Ciaran Nugent, Mikey Place, Gary Armstrong, Jordan Roberts, Chris Lyons.

REFEREE: Ben Connolly (Dublin)

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