Keith Long and his players deserve a huge amount of credit for their display at Oriel Park on Friday night.
A fortnight ago Peter Hutton and the Derry City squad returned to the Brandywell having played excellently and were unfortunate not to take something away from their trip to the Carrick Road venue.
The Candystripes lined up in a manner which forced Dundalk to play through the middle and then proceeded to crowd out the attacking options available. However, the men from Dalymount began in a completely different manner. Aided by scoring ridiculously early in the match, they set about reducing Dundalk to very few, if any, clear-cut scoring opportunities.
They achieved this in a few ways:
1) Roberto Lopes’ Man-Marking
Daryl Horgan has been one of the best players in the league over the past month and to combat this Bohs decided to man-mark him.
Roberto Lopes shuffled over to shut down any space on the right hand side, forcing Horgan inside and into the midfield traffic. Throughout the course of the game, any time Horgan did get past Lopes, he never had a decent opportunity to create an end product.
2) Robbie Creevy
As I have written about in a previous article, UCD have produced some quality footballers over the years and Robbie Creevy is no exception. However, tonight his brief consisted of cutting down the space in front of his back 4 – either by patrolling the edge of the ‘D’ or tracking Richie Towell.
Dundalk, as well as being masters of scoring from set-pieces, again evidenced with a goal from Dane Massey that they are always a danger from shots on the edge of the penalty area. John Mountney’s deflected effort against Derry City being a recent example. However, Bohemians had done their homework and didn’t give the Dundalk midfield a sight of goal in this range and Creevy played an important role.
3) Bohs’ Defence
While Dundalk tried to make attacking threats out of their two full-backs, their Dublin opposition defended as a unit of four spread across the width of the pitch. This meant that, while they offered very little attacking threat from deep, they made it difficult for Dundalk to expose their flanks with long diagonal balls, which is a common tactic of the Lilywhites.
On the rare occasions Dundalk got in behind the defence, they were deprived of the space or time to fashion a decent chance. While, at the other end of the pitch they also made their presence felt at set-pieces. The excellent Dave Mulcahy took his goal well, while they also had a few clear headers, which failed to trouble Gary Rogers.
4) Ishmail Akinade’s Influence
The former Bray Wanderers striker made his Bohemians debut tonight and was a constant thorn in the side of the Dundalk defence. Akinade played the lone striker role for The Seagulls very effectively and stepped straight back into the fold tonight.
He was immense in his work-rate, hustling and bustling Paddy Barrett into dragging him down for a penalty, as well as providing excellent link up play with his midfielders. If Bohs can get him linking up with the impressive Adam Evans, there are more goals in this team.
Keith Long managed Athlone Town last year and in most matches they were the outside bet. At Oriel Park on Friday night, he used that experience to come up with a game plan that would restrict the current champions without compromising on the defensive stability, which has been the bedrock of their success this year.
Allied to this was the highly-successful debut of Akinade, which kept the Dundalk defence busy and gave them no time on the ball. The man-marking, along with the industry of Keith Buckley, meant that Towell and Finn had to drop deep to receive the ball, thus leaving David McMillan isolated up front or needing the wide men of Mountney and Horgan to tuck in-field and provide options.
This in-turn reduced the ability to move the ball wide and drag the defence away from positions they were comfortable defending.
For Stephen Kenny, there’s much to think about. Two weeks ago fortune favoured the home team but on Friday night there was no need for a rub of Mr. Green, the Gypsies travelled back to Dublin with the jackpot.
Tom O’Connor, Pundit Arena