Dundalk FC players celebrate with Patrick Hoban after the striker's finish put The Lilywhites ahead in injury-time of Friday night's draw with Derry City at The Brandywell. (Pic: O McVeigh/Sportsfile)
John Gill believes Dundalk FC produced possibly their best performance of the season, with the first-team coach disappointed that “Christmas came early” for Derry City who stole a 95th minute point in the North on Friday night.
The defending champions had won 14 of their 15 previous outings in all competitions, with their only blip being a 2-2 draw against The Candystripes at Oriel Park in May.
That scoreline was repeated at The Ryan McBride Brandywell Stadium in a dramatic ending, where Junior Ogedi-Uzokwe cancelled out substitute Patrick Hoban’s 91st-minute goal.
Dundalk had threatened little in the first half, but – trailing to David Parkhouse’s strike – they were completely dominant after the break and, after Georgie Kelly’s equaliser, Hoban’s header should have ensured an overall deserved three points.
Gill admitted there was disappointment in the camp. However, with Shamrock Rovers also drawing, The Lilywhites maintained their eight-point lead at the top of the SSE Airtricity League Premier Division, with attention now turning to Europe.
“It is disappointing, but we’ve scored a lot of late goals ourselves this year. I thought we were magnificent tonight. I thought it was undoubtedly one of our best, if not the best performance of the season,” Gill said.
“The boys that came into the team did excellently. I’m thrilled for Georgie to get the goal, and then Pat comes on and does what Pat does.
“We’re disappointed, but if you had given us this on April 12 when we were 13 points behind – we’ve had 13 wins and two draws since – it’s a magnificent run of form. It’s great momentum, all down to the hard work of the players and everybody connected to the club.
“We’re in a good place. We don’t look at other results, even though you’ll tell me now that Rovers drew tonight. We don’t look at them – we look at ourselves. We’ll have a look at the game, but we’ll park it until we play in the league again.
“Our focus is fully on Europe now, with Riga on Wednesday.”
Gill was disappointed with the manner in which Derry’s goals were conceded, stating: “I think Christmas came early for Derry tonight, let’s be honest.
“The first goal, it was a poor goal to give away – I’m not going to cover it up. The second goal, we don’t usually give away goals from set-plays.
“We should have dealt with it before it was a corner. We feel a bit aggrieved because he gave four minutes of injury-time, he played four-and-a-half minutes, and also, we felt we should have had a throw-in before the corner. The fourth official said it was a throw-in.
“These things go for you and they go against you. We’ll dust ourselves down.
“We showed a lot of character; I thought in the second half in particular, we were magnificent. The three subs that came on made big impacts on the game. Everybody to a man, as a group, we’ve stuck together and dug a result out.”
Head coach Vinny Perth had named Andy Boyle and Robbie Benson in his starting line-up, with Boyle marking his return from the UK while Benson was able to line-out for the first time since the opening day of the season in February.
“Boyler looked like he was in an armchair playing with a cigar,” Gill said. “He was magnificent. He brings composure to the group. He’s a great lad.
“That 70 minutes will stand to Robbie, and the 30 that he got on Monday. Robbie Benson is a big, big player and he’s only getting back up to speed. Jamie McGrath got more minutes tonight.
“They’re all positive things. We’re in a good place, physically and mentally.”
Dundalk now prepare for Wednesday’s sell-out UEFA Champions League first qualifying round first leg clash with Latvian champions Riga at Oriel Park (kick-off 7:45pm).