Andy Boyle helps Dundalk keep up four-point cushion at top

Gary McCabe grabs two as Shamrock Rovers go third; Wexford too good for Longford

Dundalk’s John Mountney pressures Bray’s Sean Harding during the SSE Airtricity League Premier Division One game at  Oriel Park. Photograph:  Tommy Dickson/Inpho

Dundalk’s John Mountney pressures Bray’s Sean Harding during the SSE Airtricity League Premier Division One game at Oriel Park. Photograph: Tommy Dickson/Inpho

 

Dundalk 1 Bray Wanderers 0

Andy Boyle’s first goal in over a year was enough to maintain Dundalk’s four-point lead at the top of the SSE Airtricity Premier Division table.

The defender’s 21st-minute header from a Ronan Finn free-kick was his first since the corresponding fixture 12 months ago, and ensured Stephen Kenny’s men racked up their sixth straight league win.

The champions, however, struggled to go move the gears after that and they had Gary Rogers to thank for securing the win, the Lilywhites goalkeeper standing tall to make a fine stop to deny Dylan Connolly in the 89th minute.

Bray Wanderers goalkeeper Peter Cherrie, a league winner with Dundalk in 2014, was relatively untroubled in the opening 20 minutes but Dundalk possess a threat in every department and so it proved again when Boyle powered his effort across the Scot into the far corner.

The goal injected a bit of life into Dundalk and Cherrie had to get down to gather a Chris Shields effort just two minutes later, the former Bray midfielder evading a couple of tackles before getting his effort at goal.

Finn then steered a right-footed attempt wide of the post after he was neatly set up by David McMillan before Boyle caused trouble in the Bray penalty area again on the half-hour mark, his towering header from a Daryl Horgan corner just clearing the bar.

Harry Kenny’s side rarely looked like opening Dundalk up but the home support watched on nervously in the 38th minute when left back Sean Harding let fly with a half-volley that just flew over the top. It was the only time in the opening 45 minutes that Rogers looked concerned.

The champions should have doubled the lead 60 seconds later. Great tenacity by Horgan saw him steal the ball from Hugh Douglas on the left touchline and feed Finn. The midfielder’s cut back was inch perfect for David McMillan but the striker skewed his effort badly wide from six-yards.

Cherrie denied McMillan’s downward header as an off-colour Dundalk went in search of a killer second but Bray looked relatively comfortable in the second half and they almost stunned Dundalk in the 89th minute when Connolly broke free to bear down on goal but Rogers made a vital save to secure a hard fought win for Stephen Kenny’s side.

DUNDALK: Rogers; Gannon, Gartland, Boyle, Massey; Shields, Benson (Meenan, 67 mins); Mountney (Barrett, 80 mins), Finn, Horgan; McMillan.

BRAY WANDERERS: Cherrie; Douglas, Kenna, McNally, Harding (McDonagh, 74 mins); Salmon, Creevy; Connolly, Moore, Marks (Brennan, 69 mins); Pender (Kelly, 69 mins).

Referee: Derek Tomney.

Attendance: 1,940.

Shamrock Rovers 3 Sligo Rovers 0

Shamrock Rovers brightened up a damp and dreary night at Tallaght Stadium by recording their biggest home of the season and rising to third in the table.

While Sligo Rovers arrived in Dublin chasing a fourth win on the trot, they were overpowered by Pat Fenlon’s side who had Gary McCabe (two) and birthday boy Gary Shaw on the scoresheet.

The Hoops, too, were on a decent run, having won back-to-back league games, and never looked back once McCabe fired them ahead after just seven minutes.

When Sligo captain Craig Roddan fouled Gavin Brennan in the box, McCabe did what he’d done earlier in the season against Wexford Youths and Finn Harps by drilling the spot-kick home.

The visitors had scored nine goals in their previous three wins yet offered little in attack despite the best efforts of Raffaele Cretaro up front. Credit must also go to the Rovers defence for maintaining their record of keeping clean sheets in all eight of their league wins to date.

Their latest victory was all but secured by their second goal netted three minutes before the break by Shaw on the occasion of his 24th birthday.

Without a goal since joining from Longford, the Newbridge man showed no rustiness from his recent injury lay-off in dinking a volley beyond Micheál Schlingermann following a pinpoint cross by Simon Madden on the right.

Comfortably in control, Rovers extended their lead 12 minutes after the restart. Gavin Brennan’s bravery on the left won possession back for the hosts and his lay-off allowed Dean Clarke to plant a cross onto McCabe’s head six yards out and he nodded in.

Persistence almost led to McCabe securing his hat-trick on a couple of occasions only for him to shoot tamely at Schlingermann before the Sligo goalkeeper denied the midfielder with another close-range header.

SHAMROCK ROVERS: Hyland; Madden, Cornwall, Webster, G Brennan; Cregg, McCabe, K Brennan (Boyd, 83 mins); Miele, Shaw (North, 61 mins), D Clarke (McPhail, 74 mins).

SLIGO ROVERS: Schlingermann; Adebayo-Rowling, Leahy, Boylan, Donelon; Richards (Roberts, 73 mins), Roddan, Russell, Keohane; Martin (Sadlier, 67 mins), Cretaro (Gordon, 83 mins).

Referee: G Kelly (Cork)

Longford Town 2 Wexford Youths 4

Well-taken second half goals from Andy Mulligan and Paul Murphy avenged an opening night defeat for Wexford Youths as they lifted themselves out of the relegation places to leave Longford rooted to the foot of the table.

It began well for Longford as they punished poor defending to take a sixth minute lead.

Longford striker David O’Sullivan chased down midfielder Kealan Dillon’s through pass with Youths’ defender Ryan Delaney stretching to get a toe to the ball to send it past goalkeeper Graham Doyle to the corner of the net.

If at fault for the goal, redemption arrived quickly for Delaney as he availed of a goalkeeping mistake at the other end to equalise six minutes later.

Longford’s teenage goalkeeper Ian Molloy flapped at Jonny Bonner’s free kick in from the left. The ball dropped into the path of Delaney who bundled it home.

Molloy restored his confidence with an acrobatic tip over save from Danny Furlong’s header from a Paul Murphy cross on 20 minutes.

But the goalkeeper was left stranded on his line from Bonner’s resulting corner as Chris Kenny was afforded the simple task of forcing the ball home at the back post to give Youths the lead.

Though Longford had a bit more about them on the resumption, they were undone by the goal of the game on 54 minutes as Youths extended their lead.

Murphy and Eric Molloy combined to find Bonner on the left. The midfielder then threaded a delightful ball through for the run of winger Mulligan who drew goalkeeper Ian Molloy before confidently shooting past him to the net.

Longford hit back to reduce the deficit on 72 minutes. Mark Hughes put O’Sullivan free on the right and his low cross was turned into his own net by Gary Delaney.

But Youths had the final word when Murphy showed great composure to collect the rebound after his initial shot came back off the post to shoot home their fourth goal on 85 minutes.

LONGFORD TOWN: Molloy; Hughes, Flynn, Noack-Hofmann, Powell; Cowan (Simon, 57 mins), Gannon, Dillon (McKeown, 68 mins), O’Connor; O’Sullivan, O’Hanlon

WEXFORD YOUTHS: Doyle; McCabe, G. Delaney, R. Delaney, Friel; Molloy (O’Keeffe, 90+1 mins), Bonner, Kenny, Mulligan (Whittle, 89 mins); Furlong (Dunne, 68 mins), Murphy.

Referee: James McKell (Tipperary).

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