DUNDALK manager Ian Foster has called on his battle wearied players to finish the first round of games with a victory when high flying Bray Wanderers arrive at Oriel Park on Friday night.
Victory over Pat Devlin’s men will see the Lilywhites finish the first series of nine games with 14 points. And after seeing his side also play six Setanta Cup matches in that period, Foster feels that would be a “wonderful achievement”.
“We’ve played four competitive games more than anybody else with a small amount of players. If we can beat Bray then we will have 14 points and a Setanta Cup final in the bag, which I think is fantastic.
“The players have just come through three games in seven days and as from Monday we have another three games in the space of a week. It’s getting increasingly difficult. We’re down to a panel of just 14 first-team players but they keep going and they keep giving the effort.
“We’re not in a position to rest too many players. I think we’ve only been in a position twice this season where we could name seven subs. The lads wearing the shirt are doing a fantastic job but there will be times when we can’t do it every week because it does take its toll.”
The Dundalk boss was speaking after seeing his side pick up their first away win of the season against Drogheda United on Good Friday. And according to Foster, patience was the key to Dundalk’s 2-1 win.
Trailing 1-0 – very much against the run of play - at half-time to a Dinny Corcoran goal, Dundalk raised their game in the second-half, battering Droghead into eventual submission thanks to Daniel Kearns’ 83rd minute header. And speaking afterwards, Foster was fulsome in his praise for his players.
“We’re obviously delighted to get all three points”, he said. “It was probably the type of game we needed after reaching the Setanta Cup final, a local derby, and in fairness the players started off really well.
“I had no complaints for the majority of our first-half performance. A long throw in and a deflected goal was a bit harsh on us. The lads came in and they were really low at half-time but they showed great character to go out and produce a wonderful second-half performance.
“It was always going to be about patience. You can’t come into local derbies and expect it to be handed to you on a plate. Mark Quigley was getting on it in decent areas and Keith Ward should have done better with his chance so we should have been comfortable before we went one down. That’s not us at the minute though!
“It was a lovely header from Colin Hawkins. He maybe should have come off at half-time with a groin strain and he couldn’t particularly move in the second-half but that’s where we’re at with our squad numbers at the minute. He dug in and fair play to him.”
With 17 minutes to go, Foster gambled by sending on Johnny Breen in place of Keith Ward and the attacking 4-2-4 formation paid off when Kearns scored his second league goal of the season.
Explaining his decision, Foster said: “We were on the ascendancy and it’s in my make up, I’m desperate to win.
“We put the lads under a bit of pressure all week, saying that we needed to win this game. They never stopped trying. What was nice is that they kept trying to play in the right manner which is difficult when you are one down in a game you are expected to win. We ended up with Mark Quigley in the centre of midfield and we knew that Johnny Breen would cause them problems. Fortunately we got our rewards.
“Danny has been brave and he stuck his head in. We all know what he can do with the ball at his feet, but that’s fantastic if he can add that to his CV as well.”