28 Jan 2022

Ruthless Dundalk FC punish Sligo Rovers to maintain winning start

Sligo Rovers 0-4 Dundalk FC


Patrick McEleney celebrates his goal against Sligo Rovers. Picture: Ciaran Culligan

Dundalk made it two wins out of two with a commanding performance against Sligo Rovers at The Showgrounds on Saturday night.

Patrick McEleney opened the scoring just shy of the quarter hour mark with a delicious free-kick before another Derryman , Michael Duffy, made it two-nil when he found himself in acres of space to dispatch past Shaun Patton to open his account for the club.

Sligo were reduced to 10 men when Jonah Ayunga was dismissed for two yellow cards in the space of 13 second-half minutes and the champions punished the hosts with two late goals from Ciaran Kilduff and substitute Thomas Stewart to maintain their fine start to the SSE Airtricity League season .

Stephen Kenny made two changes to the side that beat Shamrock Rovers on the opening night of the campaign. Stephen O’Donnell and Dane Massey missed out with injuries, opening the door for Conor Clifford and Niclas Vemmelund to make their first competitive start for the club.

The Bit o’Red were hammered 5-1 by Limerick in their first game of the season and Dave Robertson’s side looked fired up in the early stages. Paddy Barrett was left in a heap by Ayunga in the eighth minute, a challenge that went unpunished by referee Ben Connolly, much to the disgust of Kenny and the Dundalk bench.

The champions drew first blood four minutes later. The roving Robbie Benson was taken down by Craig Roddan on the edge of the penalty area and McEleney guided a fantastic free-kick over the wall to leave Shaun Patton rooted to his line.

The 24-year-old had a chance to double the advantage three minutes later. Duffy's cut back found his former Derry City teammate just inside the 18-yard box but McEleney opted to try and pass it rather than hammer it towards goal.

Skipper for the night, Brian Gartland, then rose to head a John Mountney corner just wide before Ciaran Kilduff fired straight at Patton after a neat interchange with McEleney on the edge of the penalty area.

Dundalk continued to ask all of the questions and a sublime McEleney flick set Benson through on the inside right but his effort just crept agonisingly wide of the upright. The pass by McEleney was one of the highlights of the night.

The hosts were lucky to finish the half with a full compliment on the pitch. John Russell was booked for a late challenge on Sean Gannon, right in front of the main stand, and four minutes later he crashed into John Mountney. Referee Connolly, however, took a lenient view and Russell was allowed to stay on the pitch.

The champions took a firm grip on the game in the 35th minute. Barrett’s pass from the back found its way to Duffy in a central position and he calmly slotted the ball wide of Patton to leave the home side on the ropes.

Ayunga hammered a first-time volley from a corner over the Dundalk bar as half-time approached but it proved to be a rare sighting of goal for Sligo who went into the dressing room very much second best.

Things got progressively worse for Sligo in the second-half. Ayunga was finally booked in the 53rd minute for flattening Gartland and the big striker was given his marching orders 13 minutes later after catching Barrett with a poorly timed lunge.

Dundalk looked in cruise control throughout and it was no surprise when the third goal arrived with 14 minutes left to play.

Substitute Jamie McGrath was heavily involved in a goal that resembled a move off the training ground. A bout of passing outside the Rovers box ended with McEleney picking out Gannon on the right and his pinpoint delivery was headed home by Kilduff.

Kenny introduced Thomas Stewart for his debut and the Portadown man marked the occasion with Dundalk’s fourth in the 82nd minute, showing good perseverance to nudge home after some excellent approach play by Benson and Duffy.

SLIGO ROVERS: Shaun Patton; Tobi Adebayo-Rowling, Michael Leahy, Kyle Callan-McFadden, Regan Donelon; Daniel Kearns (Kieran Sadlier 62), John Russell, Craig Roddan, Liam Martin; Raffaele Cretaro (Matthew Stevens 77), Jonah Ayunga. Subs not used: Gary Boylan, Chris Kenny, Mickey Place, Jack Kearney, Ed McGinty (GK).

DUNDALK FC: Gabriel Sava; Sean Gannon, Brian Gartland, Paddy Barrett, Niclas Vemmelund; Conor Clifford, Robbie Benson; John Mountney (Jamie McGrath 71), Patrick McEleney, Michael Duffy (Steven Kinsella 83); Ciaran Kilduff (Thomas Stewart 79). Subs not used: Keith Dalton, Chris Shields, Emmet Hughes, Ben Kelly (GK).

REFEREE: Ben Connolly.

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