Dundalk head coach Vinny Perth is hoping his players got the “shot in the arm” they needed after conceding two poor goals against Derry City on Friday night ahead of this Wednesday’s sold out Champions League qualifier against Riga FC at Oriel Park (kick-off 7.45pm).
David Parkhouse’s opener at the Brandywell was a gift following a Chris Shields mistake while the Lilywhites will also be unhappy with the nature of their defending for Junior’s 95th minute equaliser after it looked like a Pat Hoban goal on 91 minutes had secured the three points.
While disappointed with the result, Perth said he saw plenty of positives in the performance ahead of Europe.
“When you concede that late, albeit we scored that late, you sort of feel like it’s a bit of a defeat but the flip side of it is that I thought it was probably close to our best performance of the season,” he said.
“I thought we were completely and utterly the dominant side there tonight, albeit they’re a really good side and this is one of the most difficult venues in the league to come to but I thought the players tonight were top, top notch.”
Asked whether Shamrock Rovers’ failure to beat Sligo Rovers in Tallaght had taken a little of the sting out of Dundalk’s failure to win, Perth said it hadn’t.
“You don’t look at that because I think we have to look after ourselves,” he said.
“There was a win there tonight on the table but they threw 10 or 11 people into the box right at the end and he got a header. It was clearly a throw in for us which would have changed the whole game but it’s not a referee who cost us tonight, it was us not doing our business right.
“We’re disappointed not to pick up three points but maybe that is a shot in the arm or a dig in the ribs to say we need to sharpen up from a defensive point of view. Those two goals tonight were very unlike us and they’re disappointing.
“Having said that I think it was the ideal game before Riga. The two mistakes we made are a timely reminder that you must concentrate. It’s a tough venue to come to but it was a perfect night for us in that sense. I really don’t care about other results. We should have won tonight so we’re disappointed.”
While Shields claimed he was fouled in the build-up to the opener, Perth said he had no complaints about the goal from that point of view.
“I don’t think he was fouled. I think he literally fell over. Complacency is the wrong word but we were probably that dominant that he must not have seen the guy but I haven’t really spoke to him about it.
“It’s a bad goal to give away but then to be fair to him he created Georgie Kelly’s goal and he showed real leadership qualities in doing that.”
Perth said the fact both his strikers found the net on the night was a massive plus heading into Europe.
“I’m really happy with that because we believe we have two really strong centre forwards.
“Georgie Kelly has probably been harshly done by over the year because injuries in different positions meant the changes in the middle of games haven’t been able to happen to suit him but Georgie showed a touch of class with his finish.
“Ultimately then Pat came on and should have won us the game. That’s what he does. He’s a big game player but it’s great confidence for the two of them heading into a busy month.”
Perth also denied he had dropped Hoban after a run of games without a goal.
“I don’t see it as him being left out. I don’t see Jamie McGrath being left out either. We just picked a team which we felt was the right team.
“I look at Pat’s performance and what he has done very the last 16 or 18 months at the club. I think that’s his 44th goal since he has come back or very close to it. People will judge it over a three or four week period but I think the way we play this year, we’re starting to get back to what we like to do which is to have somebody closer to the striker.
“Him and Georgie have probably been a victim of the way we’ve had to configure the midfield but you’re starting to see us create more chances. I thought against Waterford we created enough chances. Tonight we probably could have been more clinical in the final third but I thought it was a really good performance.”
Perth said he was also delighted with the return of Andy Boyle.
“Andy Boyle looked like the Andy Boyle of 2016 for me. He just breezed in.
“Himself and Dan Cleary were a brilliant partnership. Andy is where we want him to be. He’s in a great place.”
The head coach is also pleased with the number of minutes each player has got in the past week heading into Europe.
“That aspect of it is really pleasing,” he said.
“Dane I thought was excellent against Shamrock Rovers so he is ready if needs be. Robbie Benson has played 15 or 30 minutes and then just over an hour tonight. Jamie McGrath played 30 and then 90 and whatever it was tonight. Again, he’s in a good place.
“Georgie scored a goal so we know if we need him, he’s ready. Pat scored a goal, Boyle now has played 90 minutes and he looks like he’s in good shape because there is always concern over is there scars after coming back?
“The management set up and the medical set up deserve huge credit for how the squad is being managed and what I mean by that is that Jamie McGrath and Robbie Benson’s fitness levels are superb for players who were out injured. Danny Miller and his team have done a really good job so we’re in a good place in that sense.”
Sean Murray and Sean Hoare are expected to return from knocks for Wednesday’s game with Riga but Jordan Flores is out along with Stephen Folan.
Perth said: “Jordan’s is a medium term injury which is a big blow.
“I’m personally really disappointed for him. He played his first 90 minutes in such a long time against Finn Harps and I think people were starting to see the real Jordan Flores and what we see in him so it’s a disappointing one. He’s someone we hold in the highest regard.”
Looking ahead to Riga on Wednesday, Perth is expecting a tough test from the Latvians but backed his side to score while hopeful they can keep a clean sheet.
“I think we can score in most grounds so whatever happens we’ll deal with it.
“It’s such a tight game that it’s very, very hard to call. We have to concentrate defensively as much as in attack. They’re a good side so we need people to realise that they’ve got the draw they wanted and they’ve spent a lot of money so they’re obviously backing themselves to get into the next round. They’re in a good place but keeping clean sheets in Europe is massive.”
Perth said no one should take occasions such as Wednesday for granted.
It’s the highlight of your career,” he said.
“I was lucky enough as a player to win a couple of FAI Cups but the highlight of my career was playing in Europe. These players we have are very, very lucky in that they’ve won a lot of trophies but really they will probably look back most fondly on the European nights.
“It’s going to be a wonderful occasion and I don’t think people should take for granted that we have a Champions League game in Oriel Park on Wednesday. We’ve had dark times in the club before so we should enjoy these occasions,” he said.