File photo of Dundalk’s Joe Adams. Ryan Byrne/INPHO

Dundalk miss chance to close gap at top after falling to Sligo

They fell to a 2-0 defeat at the Showgrounds.

Sligo Rovers 2

Dundalk 0

Jessica Farry reports from the Showgrounds

DUNDALK MISSED AN opportunity to close the gap on Shamrock Rovers at the top of the table, suffering a 2-0 defeat at the hands of a slick Sligo Rovers side.

The Lilywhites were reduced to ten men in the first half when Darragh Leahy was dismissed, and although they responded well initially, Rovers proved too strong in the end, scoring twice in the second-half to secure all three points.

The Bit O’Red had a 10 day break to prepare for this game following their early cup exit at the hands of Wexford.

Dundalk faced the same opponents last Friday in the cup, and needed extra-time to progress, and with only a three day break.

Stephen O’Donnell called the situation ‘shambolic’, as he felt it was unfair his players had less time to prepare.

The hosts were hoping to bounce back from two consecutive league defeats, while the Lilywhites wanted a response after below performances against both Wexford and Shamrock Rovers in their previous league outing.

John Russell brought Frank Liivak and Greg Bolger into the starting 11. Karl O’Sullivan missed out due to a family bereavement, while Max Mata dropped to the bench.

O’Donnell made wholesale changes to his side after that cup game. Among the changes was a rare start for youngster Ryan O’Kane who scored his first goal for the club on Friday night.

John Martin tested the Rovers defence early on with two good opportunities, but the Bit O’Red survived both attacks.

The visitors were reduced to ten men on 23 minutes. As Rovers broke forward with Aidan Keena slipping in Liivak, Leahy committed himself to the challenge and was deemed to be the last man back, after some deliberation by referee John McLoughlin and was sent off.

Paddy Kirk’s effort from distance flew wide of Nathan Shepperd’s goals, with Dundalk soaking up the pressure well from the 11 men of Rovers.

Rovers went ahead on 53 minutes, following some fantastic work from the league’s top scorer Keena.

Keena’s shot was well saved by Shepperd, but the Welsh underage international couldn’t hold onto it, with the Mullingar man playing it back to Will Fitzgerald.

Fitzgerald’s initial shot looked tame, but was turned into the net by the unfortunate Andy Boyle.

The visitors grew into the game and were looking the most likely to score, until Rovers hit their second to put daylight between the sides.

Kailin Barlow picked out Keena who was charging down the right hand side. The 24-year-old then squared it for Liivak who fired past Shepperd to make it 2-0.

Although Dundalk pushed and pushed, the game was beyond them.

Derry City have overtaken the Lilywhites on goal difference, while Rovers remain seven points behind St Pats in fourth.

Sligo Rovers: Luke McNicholas; Lewis Banks, Shane Blaney (Cameron Evans 39), Nando Pijnaker, Paddy Kirk; Robbie Burton (Kailin Barlow 77), Greg Bolger (Niall Morahan 77), Adam McDonnell (Max Mata 58); Frank Liivak, Will Fitzgerald; Aidan Keena.

Dundalk: Nathan Sheppard; Lewis Macari, Andy Boyle, Joe Adams (Keith Ward 80); John Mountney (Runar Hauge 80), Darragh Leahy; Greg Sloggett (Robbie Benson 65), Alfie Lewis, Steven Bradley (David McMillan 65); Ryan O’Kane; John Martin (Sam Bone 30).

Referee: John McLoughlin. 

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