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Dublin: 20 °C Tuesday 16 July, 2019
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'Some nights, it just doesn’t work for you'

Dundalk boss Vinny Perth admitted his side were not at their best against Riga on Wednesday.

Vinny Perth pictured during the Dundalk-Riga game.
Vinny Perth pictured during the Dundalk-Riga game.
Image: Morgan Treacy/INPHO

DUNDALK BOSS VINNY Perth admitted his side were not at their best in an attacking sense, as the Lilywhites opened their Champions League qualification campaign with a 0-0 draw against Riga on Wednesday night.

For much of the game, the Latvian side adopted a conservative approach, sticking plenty of bodies behind the ball, with Dundalk struggling to break down their opponents as a result.

“We probably just weren’t brilliant in the final third, [not] our normal selves,” he said. “We created enough opportunities in the final third to make something happen, but it just didn’t happen for us. Then, towards the end of the game, it sort of opened up for both teams. We’d be disappointed with our play in the final third, but it was a game we expected. They were probably as good as we thought they’d be and, at this level, they’re difficult games.

“It’s hard to know [why we weren't at our best]. Yes, there’s a bit of pressure around Europe for players. Obviously, trying to break down a back six, big strong players they have, some nights, it just doesn’t work for you. I think the big, open pitch [in Riga] might suit us a little bit better and they’ve got to be more expansive. I see a lot of positives. We’ve had draws here before, we’ve drawn a lot of games here, we often find [Oriel Park] difficult on European nights. We’ve had it before and we’ll go again.”

And while Dundalk controlled much of the game, Riga began to effectively counter-attack in the final 15 minutes, causing a few nervy moments for the home crowd.

Joel Bopescu, in particular, wasted a glorious chance in the dying minutes when played through on goal, and Perth said he was relieved not to have conceded afterwards, as Dundalk were nearly punished for throwing caution to the wind.

It was a massive concern. Not conceding tonight was huge for us, we take that as a big positive. We got too open and you’re trying to calm people down. Players do that, they’re very gung-ho. We have that a lot here in this ground. In that last 15 to 20 minutes, that frustration kind of took over. We were so good for the first 20 minutes of the second half, we didn’t create enough, frustration took over and they forced it a little bit.

“They may feel now, particularly after that last 10 or 15 minutes, that they can come out and attack us. We sort of hope they do, to be honest with you. The game might open up. They play that way, they play with four and two in front of the back four, at home, all of the time. That is their style, but the likes of [Deniss] Rakkels, who came on, will probably start in the away leg. He’s a big attacking threat and I think they’ll be a bit more positive than they were here.”

One player who made an impact for the hosts was Robbie Benson. The midfielder has been out of action through injury of late, but was fit enough to appear off the bench on Wednesday night. Nevertheless, Perth remained uncertain as to whether the former 27-year-old Athlone native would feature more prominently in the second leg.

“He had six minutes of football before last Friday, so it’s touch and go. He played 60 minutes up in Derry, he’s played a half-hour again tonight. I thought he allowed us be higher up the pitch and be more of an attacking threat. We’ve missed Robbie this year, we have worked hard to get him back for Europe. He’s got a big weekend of training to do and if he gets through that, then we’ll certainly give him every opportunity to play.”

Chris Shields Chris Shields had to depart the action through injury. Source: Laszlo Geczo/INPHO

Another player who is not assured of starting away to Riga is Chris Shields. The influential midfielder was forced to depart the action at half-time following a nasty collision with team-mate Dan Cleary, as both looked to challenge for the ball in the air.

“It was very badly swollen and the eye socket as well was swollen, so we just had to take the doctor’s advice,” Perth explained. “I thought Seán Hoare played really well in [midfield], so the biggest effect for us was we lost one attacking sub and on European nights, players off the bench make a massive difference and we didn’t have the likes of Georgie Kelly we could use from an attacking point of view. Jamie [McGrath], coming back from injury, had to come out [as well].

We don’t suspect concussion [with Chris]. That hasn’t been said to me by the doctor, it was just the nature of the injury to the eye socket, that another blow could be dangerous, so the doctor made the decision and you have to listen to him.

“When the pain drifts out of the injury, we’ll assess [whether he's fit to start the second leg] then.”

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Paul Fennessy

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