Dundalk extended their lead at the top of the SSE Airtricity League Premier Division table to nine points courtesy of a 4-3 victory over a crestfallen Longford Town side at Oriel Park this evening.
It looked increasingly likely as the game headed towards its conclusion that the league’s basement dwellers were going to gain an unlikely point from Louth tonight, until Ciaran Kilduff headed into the top-corner three minutes into stoppage time to send all Lilywhites into raptures.
David McMillan gave the home side the lead on three separate occasions only for Lee Duffy, Noel Haverty and Rhys Gorman to draw proceedings level following each McMillan strike.
Oriel Park erupted with delight at the final whistle, as Dundalk secured their fifteenth league victory of the campaign. Longford though remain adrift at the foot of the table, and without a win since the opening night.
The Lilywhites held, as expected the lion share of offensive possession in the opening ten minutes, Daryl Horgan and Patrick McEleney both fired wide as Stephen O’Donnell acted as the conductor from his deep-lying midfield position.
Longford were unable to commit too many players to attack, their rigid five-man rear-guard were being protected sturdily by their defensive midfield trio of Peter McGlynn, Philip Gannon and Mark Hughes, as Dundalk huffed and puffed.
The visitors actually had a reasonable claim for a penalty seconds before Dundalk’s opener. Kaleem Simon did excellently to evade Brian Gartland’s robust challenge, only for Dundalk’s stout centre-back to seemingly drag the frontman from behind. A bewildered Tony Cousins pleaded for a spot-kick to be awarded, referee Dave McKeon failed to comply though as the Lilywhites cleared their lines
In the next attack, Stephen Kenny’s men took the lead through the league’s leading goal scorer, David McMillan. Following another neat interchange between O’Donnell, Daryl Horgan and McEleney, the former Derry City man swung a delightful ball to the back post from Horgan’s flank. ‘Fox in the box,’ McMillan nestled his looping header in the far corner to give Dundalk a deserved eleventh minute advantage.
McMillan’s tenth league strike of the season appeared to force Longford into gear though. Town began to power themselves into proceedings, forcing corners and stringing more meaningful attacking moves together.
Peter McGlynn was certainly getting stuck-in in central areas for Longford, as was Kaleem Simon who admirably plied a lonesome trade in attack. O’Donnell though was giving a midfield exhibition as the Lilywhite quarter-back, orchestrating attacks, Pirloesque.
Tony Cousins would have been anxious at the fact that the Dundalk full-backs, Gannon in particular, were being allowed to maraud down the wings without any forthcoming challengers. McEleney and O’Donnell were having a very profitable night, spraying balls from side-to-side.
However, the visitors rocked Oriel Park to the core 35 minute into the opening period. Kealan Dillon swung in Longford’s second corner of the night to the front post where former Drogheda United man, Lee Duffy, flicked past the helpless Gary Rogers. 1-1, at the interval.
Longford emerged with vigour and forced an early attacking set-piece, however, they were dealt a harsh blow five minutes into the half. Lax closing down meant that Sean Gannon was able to direct a pinpoint delivery for the onrushing McMillan, and the prominent striker ruthlessly despatched his cushion header past Skinner from ten yards, 2-1.
Cousins’ men admirably fought on and grabbed another equaliser through defender Noel Haverty, one which was richly deserved following their commendable start to the second-half. Simon and Duffy were troubling the Lilywhite defence, and they forced a corner which Kealan Dillon delivered to the ‘back stick. Haverty met the cross strongly to bullet the ball to the net, two apiece.
The Longford manager was left seething soon after though. Another example of poor closing down resulted in David McMillan converting his third headed finish of the evening. A carbon copy of the opening goal, McEleney crossed enticingly from the left and McMillan completed his second three goal haul in five days. The visiting dugout felt the brunt of Cousins’ palpable frustration.
McEleney was typically omnipresent in every Dundalk move, and he almost applied his side’s fourth goal of the night. Following a piece of technical genius in the box, McEleney forced a breathtaking save from Skinner following his audacious chipped effort which would surely have eclipsed McMillan’s hat-trick had it found the net.
Just as you thought that Longford couldn’t come back again, they did. You just couldn’t fault the endeavour and belief of the midlanders. Dillion provided his third assist of the evening, with his wicked delivery bobbling in the area, before Rhys Gorman thundered it to the net, Oriel Park was stunned. Indeed, it could have been worse for the home faithful had Gary Rogers’ poor clearance ricocheted more accurately off the forward-moving Kaleem Simon.
McMillan had a goal chalked off for offside, prior to substitute Kilduff directing his swivelling effort over the bar as the champions mounted a late onslaught of the visiting goal. The winning goal eventually arrived to the disgust of an infuriated Tony Cousins.
Horgan’s inch perfect delivery was met by Kilduff, who held off Daniel O’Reilly to send all present at the Carrick Road venue into ecstacy, 4-3. Longford attempted once more to get an equaliser, however, Kealan Dillon’s free-kick drifted harmlessly wide.
Dundalk FC: Gary Rogers; Sean Gannon, Brian Gartland, Andy Boyle, Dane Massey; John Mountney (Darren Meenan 60), Ronan Finn, Stephen O’Donnell, Patrick McEleney (Ciaran Kilduff 79), Daryl Horgan; David McMillan (Chris Shields 90)
Subs not used: Gabriel Sava (gk), Shane Grimes, Paddy Barrett, Robbie Benson.
Longford Town: Paul Skinner, Kealan Dillon, Daniel O’Reilly, Rhys Gorman, Noel Haverty, Conor Powell; Peter McGlynn (Kevin O’Connor 66), Philip Gannon, Mark Hughes; Kaleem Simon, Lee Duffy (David O’Sullivan 63).
Subs not used: Ian Molloy (gk), Tristan Noack Hofmann, John McKeown, Pat Flynn.
Referee: Dave McKeon
Extratime.ie Man of the Match: David McMillan (Dundalk FC)