Dundalk return to domestic action on Sunday evening determined to win an unprecedented 11th straight league match when they welcome Bohemians to Oriel Park (kick-off 7pm).
The Lilywhites play their first league match in just over three weeks following three Europa League qualifiers, the most recent of which was a scoreless draw against AEK Larnaca last Thursday night.
A draw was perhaps a fair result in what was a cagey encounter that was lacking in clear-cut chances. However, Dundalk goalkeeper Gary Rogers had to be on hand to produce a potentially crucial save to deny Australian international forward Apostolos Giannou early in the second half.
“It wasn’t the worst result on Thursday,” Rogers told the club’s official website. “0-0 in Europe is a good result. We haven’t conceded an away goal which is important. We know that a 1-1 or a 1-0 will put us through next week and that puts us in a good position.
“It was a pretty even game on the night. In terms of clear cut chances, neither of us had that many. On the balance of play, it was a fair result the draw.
“There was an element of feeling each other out a bit in the opening part of the game. We were more aggressive in the second half. It just didn’t fall for us at times but that’s the way it goes. We are more than capable of going out there and getting a result.”
Attention temporarily turns back to domestic matters as Dundalk look to move back top of the table with a win against Bohemians before flying out to Cyprus for the return leg against Larnaca.
Cork City’s win in Bray on Friday moved the Leesiders two points clear of the Lilywhites although Stephen Kenny’s men have two games in hand including this match against Bohs.
“We have Bohs first and then we will focus on the European game. Bohs are a good side and had a good result last week so we know it won’t be easy,” added Rogers.
“We want to get more points on the board, we want to go and win the game and get another win. Hopefully we can do that.”
Dundalk are still without Stephen O’Donnell, who remains hopeful of playing again this season despite suffering a broken leg against Waterford back in May – the last time Dundalk lost a match.
Sam Byrne and Stephen Folan are among other definite absentees for the visit of Bohs due to respective hamstring and knee injuries. Meanwhile Sean Gannon is also unavailable due to a calf problem which kept him out of the Larnaca game.
Krisztian Adorjan is another player who will not feature in this match as speculation over the future of the Hungarian – who is on loan from Italian outfit Novara – continued to mount over the weekend.
Bohemians come into this match on the back of hitting sorry Bray Wanderers for six without reply at Dalymount Park last week, in what was the club’s biggest league win since beating UCD by the same margin at the beginning of the 2001/02 season.
“We played really well and should have scored more,” said manager Keith Long in the aftermath of that thrashing of Bray. “It was an excellent performance. I saw Bray last night and Cork in some ways laboured to a 3-1 victory so we can be very pleased with how we fared.
“There is still a lot to play for this season. If we can perform to the level we performed last week, then we can feel confident. If we play like we did two weeks ago against Sligo, then we’ll make things difficult for ourselves.
“We need to find that level of consistency, which has been our problem this year. But we’re going from playing the division’s bottom side to playing one of, if not the division’s top side. Dundalk have no real weaknesses. They’re very strong and very committed throughout their team.”
Long is fully aware that Dundalk travel to Cyprus for the second leg of their Europa League tie in the coming days. However, the Bohs manager does not believe the Lilywhites will be taking their foot off the pedal for what will be their first league match in over three weeks.
“They’re not a team that takes their eye off the ball. Obviously, they have the second leg of their European tie to look forward to next week, but their focus will be on this game,” added Long.
“It’s going to be tough up there as it is for all teams. We’ll be the underdogs but we’re not going up there to make up the numbers. We’ve worked hard all week and we’re going up to Dundalk to try and get something out of the game.”
Bohs are without their suspended captain Derek Pender for this fixture, while Ryan Swan misses out through a knee injury. Ryan Masterson – a new signing from Drogheda United – hasn’t been registered in time so will also take his place on the sidelines.
Referee: Robert Hennessy
A win for Dundalk would see them break a long-standing 50-year club record for consecutive league wins – the Lilywhites are currently on a ten-game winning streak which stretches back to May.
Bohemians were in fact the last opposition to win a league match at Oriel Park when they recorded a 1-0 win on October 20th last year – that was over 280 days ago which has now spanned 13 matches.
This fixture represents the 327th competitive meeting between Dundalk and Bohemians since their first ever encounter – a 1-1 draw at the old Athletic Grounds in Dundalk back in September 1926.
Dundalk 2/7; Draw 4/1; Bohemians 10/1
Dundalk 2-0 Bohemians
Injured: Sean Gannon, Sam Byrne, Stephen Folan, Stephen O’Donnell.
Injured: Ryan Swan.
Doubtful: Eoghan Stokes.
Suspended: Derek Pender.