Dundalk manager Vinny Perth took plenty of positives from his side’s trip to Spain last week despite defeats in friendly ties against CFR Cluj and CSKA Moscow in friendlies.
A header from Andy Boyle midway through the first half gave the League of Ireland champions the lead over Cluj at the Oliva Nova Golf Resort & Spa on Wednesday but despite several chances to add to their advantage, the Romanians struck twice late on to win 2-1. After a series of changes by their opponents, George Tucudian levelled matters with a shot from the edge of the box on 73 minutes before Petrilia Claudiu won it for Dan Petrescu’s men two minutes from time with a superb finish past Gabriel Sava.
A much changed Dundalk side then lost out 2-0 to CKSA Moscow on Friday with two early goals from Arnor Sigurdsson deciding the game but again there were plenty of positives for Dundalk to take from the game, including a penalty save from Gary Rogers to deny Sigurdsson his hat-trick.
Speaking to The Argus after the Cluj game on Wednesday, Perth said he felt his side could have won the game had they needed to.
“Obviously the changes to the game changed it and it was completely disjointed but we didn’t want anyone going beyond the sort of 60 minute mark or only a very few players anyway.
“For us, what we got out of that was I thought for 60-65 minutes we were extremely competitive. It will fill our players with confidence about what they are able to do. Like all good teams, there’s probably a little bit of an annoyance about the last 20 minutes but overall I have to say I’m very happy with the workout.
“I thought our attacking play was very good. We trained twice yesterday so absolutely in the last 20 minutes players were going to tire but where the players are at in terms of being ready for the season I think this was outstanding for them.
“I was chatting to their coach (Dan Petrescu) and they play Sevilla in a couple of weeks time in the Europa League so they’re on a different pathway than us so it was great to be so competitive with them and without the changes I didn’t see us losing that game to be honest.
“Who knows we may play a team like this come June, July, August or even September hopefully because if you get them it’s in the latter stages. It was great for us to be able to look their players in the eye and say we’re ready to match you up and that’s why I wanted this game. As I said, for an hour it was perfect and everything we wanted. I’m very impressed with what we’ve done.
“It looks like the team is ahead of where I thought they’d be at this stage.”
While new signing Will Patching departed with a shoulder injury just six minutes after coming on against the Romanians, he is likely to return within the next fortnight with the knock not as bad as first feared.
Perth also praised goalscorer Andy Boyle for his displays over the two games, saying he was back to the level he was at in 2016 before earning a move to Preston North End and a Republic of Ireland cap.
“Andy Boyle was the Andy Boyle of 2016 out there and that’s the level I think he can play at. He can play at this level.
“He wasn’t where he should have been last season but we knew that when we signed him. We signed him with this season in mind.
“Andy is exceptional but to be honest the competition in that position is frightening so I’m very happy with where we are in that position.”
Dundalk return to action this Thursday night when they take on neighbours Drogheda Utd in the Malone Cup at Oriel Park (kick-off 7.45pm). They will then play two games in the space of 24 hours with a trip to face Crusaders at Seaview in Belfast on Monday February 3rd before Longford Town visit Oriel on Tuesday February 4th at 7.45pm.
“We’ll play a different game after the Malone Cup,” Perth said before the Crusaders game was officially confirmed.
“That’s the first time where we’ll target 90 minutes or close to 90 minutes for people.
“They’re great tests,” Perth said of the games ahead.
“We really believe in this group and as much as we believe these European games are brilliant for us the bread and butter for us is domestically so them games are good tests.
“Drogheda have been there or thereabouts for promotion and so have Longford so they’re good opponents.
“Pre-season in one sense is a very relaxed time for a manager because once you’ve done your work over November and December the games come when they matter and it’s about getting ready for Derry.”
Trialists Cammy Smith and Taner Dogan, who both featured in Spain, are likely to be involved again in this week’s friendlies but Cameron Dummigan has departed Oriel Park to join Crusaders on loan until the end of June.
Meanwhile, the club remain hopeful of adding to their squad with at least one further addition in the coming days.