Dundalk secure confidence-boosting win over Rovers ahead of Hadjuk Spilit fixture

Deserved victory puts winners back on top of the table on goal difference ahead of Cork

Dundalk’s Chris Shields fails to connect with an overhead kick against Shamrock Rovers. Photograph: Inpho.

Dundalk’s Chris Shields fails to connect with an overhead kick against Shamrock Rovers. Photograph: Inpho.

Sun, Jul 13, 2014, 20:00

Dundalk were not at their most fluent but secured a first win in three league games to put them back on top of the table ahead of Cork City on goal difference.

It was a deserved win and Patrick Hoban’s 66th minute winner keeps Dundalk fans dreaming of a first league title since 1995. The manner of the win should also give them real belief that the challenge can be sustained

Hoban’s goal was a moment of creativity, a quality sadly lacking in a frenetic first half.

The quick, high pressing of both sides suffocated a midfield that was staging its own battle. Chris Shields went in late on Shane Robinson and could have seen more than yellow; Robinson sought retribution when he caught Shields two minutes later and was also booked.

With both midfields obsessed with closing down space, any moments of quality in the first half were coming from the wide areas. Simon Madden moved forward from right back but his curling left-foot strike did not trouble Peter Cherrie.

Richie Towell finally found space to break forward just before half-time after a neat combination between Hoban and Darren Meenan, but Barry Murphy moved smartly off his line to block with his legs.

Ironically, it was after the withdrawal of the game’s two most creative players, Horgan and McCabe, that Dundalk went ahead. Again, the breakthrough came from out wide. The impressive Meenan fed Kurtis Byrne who flashed a low ball across the goal for Hoban to tap in at the back post.

Towell could have doubled the lead on 75 minutes but Barry Murphy produced a brilliant point-blank stop.

Dundalk face Hadjuk Split on Thursday buoyed by their most important win this season.

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