THREE weeks after tearing Linfield apart at Windsor Park, Dundalk will return to Belfast on March 7 to face Glentoran in the Setanta Cup Quarter-Final first leg at The Oval.
One man who has in depth knowledge of both sides is Linfield boss David Jeffrey. The Blues manager spoke to the assembled media following his side’s exit from the competition at Oriel Park on Monday night and he said that the Lilywhites have more than enough quality in their ranks to claim a place in the semi-finals.
“It will certainly be an interesting game”, said Jeffrey. “Dundalk will get fitter and stronger and they have pace in Daniel Kearns and experience in Mark Quigley and Jason Byrne. Quigley is a great foil for Byrne, he drops off very well so it will be a great contest.
“Glentoran are going through a bit of an up and down period. If Dundalk produce the type of finishing they did at Windsor Park, albeit with our help, it will be very interesting. We watched the DVD back of the first leg at Windsor Park and Quigley’s first goal along with Kearns’ first goal were particularly good. Glentoran will have to be on their mettle for that but in saying that they also have some very good players.”
Jeffrey was left to lament his own side’s exit from the cross border competition. Ross Gaynor’s 11th minute goal gave Dundalk a stranglehold on the tie before Michael Gault levelled the game in first-half injury time. The Linfield boss was pleased that his side battled back to salvage some pride.
“I’m a much happier man than I was after the first leg”, he said. “Our defending was absolutely symbolical that night and we allowed ourselves to get picked off. The message to the players tonight was to restore a bit of pride and I think we did that. Dundalk’s goalkeeper was man of the match and that proves the point.
“We had some great chances in the first half but their goal was a nonsense. When you are a cub they tell you to put it into row Z, as Jack Charlton used to say, you can’t score from there. It was a poor mistake but to Aidan O’Kane’s credit he recovered well. We needed to get an early goal in the second-half but Dundalk break very quickly and they slowed everything down. Their tactics were exactly right.”
Indeed. After producing a cavalier display in Windsor Park, Dundalk showcased a more disciplined, mature side to their play at Oriel. With a two goal aggregate lead under their belt, Foster’s men kept their shape, content to wait for Linfield to make an unforced error. It was a performance that bore the hallmarks of a top European team, playing away from home with the tie under control.
“We said in the build up to the game that we’d try to get an early goal and when Ross scored it changed the whole perspective of the tie. We planned that if we scored the first goal we would sit back and try and hit them on the break and that’s what we ended up doing.
“We defended really well. I don’t think we played particularly well but it’s one of those game that you will see again and again in the forthcoming season. There will be games like that, especially away from home, where we will have to man up and win battles and we did that tonight.”
With the League of Ireland opener against Shamrock Rovers next on the horizon, Foster admitted he had not given too much thought to the Glentoran match.
“I’ve seen them play once, ironically it was against Linfield but I didn’t pay too much attention to them to be honest. We’ll get to watch them twice this weekend we’ll prepare for the trip to Belfast after the Shamrock Rovers game.
“It’s going to be another tough game”, he added. “They play slightly different than Linfield do. Friday night will take a lot out of us because Rovers are a wonderful side so we’ll have to take stock and see what we’re like after Friday. How will the players cope with two games in five days and will they be able to cope with three in seven? We’re without Ross Gaynor, he’ll be suspended after picking up two bookings so there’s an enforced change there”.
q For all the post match reaction from Dundalk’s trip to The Oval on Monday night, see www.dundalkdemocrat.ie