Sligo Rovers fell further behind leaders St Patrick's Athletic at the summit of the Airtricity League Premier Division as they suffered their second league defeat of the season at the hands of an impressive Dundalk side at the Showgrounds on Tuesday evening. A first half strike from Dane Massey was enough to give the Louth side a deserved 1-0 win at the Showgrounds in this rescheduled Airtricity League Premier Division clash.
An under performing Sligo side had striker Anthony Elding dismissed midway through the second half when he was sent off for an off the ball incident. Dundalk could have put the tie beyond doubt 12 minutes from time but Pat Hoban saw his spot kick rebound back off Gary Rogers' post after John Mountney was taken down by the Rovers net minder. The away side had Stephen O'Donnell dismissed late into stoppage time for a second bookable offence. The midfielder was shown his second caution for simulation four minutes into added time.
Rovers made one change from last Friday's scoreless draw with Limerick at Thomond Park. Danny Ventre replaced the injured Lee Lynch who picked up a hamstring injury during last week's stalemate. Manager Ian Baraclough was also without Danny North and Evan McMillan (both knee).
The Lillywhites went west without the services of Chris Shields, who was Dundalk's only absentee courtesy of a knee injury of his own. Boss Stephen Kenny made two changes from their defeat to UCD last Friday with Darren Meenan and John Mountney replacing John Dillon and Tiarnan Mulvenna respectively.
It was Sligo's top scorer Anthony Elding who had the game's first chance on 8 minutes. The 31-year-old managed to test Peter Cherrie, but the Dundalk goalkeeper did well to keep out to Elding's low drive at his near post.
Four minutes later and it was the away side's turn to go close. Patrick Hoban's neat one-two with Mountney at the edge of the Sligo area sent the former Bristol City striker through on goal but Hoban was unlucky to see his shot squeeze narrowly wide of Gary Rogers' post.
David Cawley went close for Sligo on 14 minutes before Aaron Greene's cross - intended for Raffaele Cretaro who was lurking at the far post - bounced off Cherrie's crossbar four minutes later.
The Lillywhites threatened from set pieces early on and Gavin Peers did well to get in the way of a Mountney effort which looked destined for goal, following a Darren Meenan free kick which found its way to the Mayo native at the edge of the box on 24 minutes.
Dundalk began to dominate proceedings and almost took a deserved lead on 33 minutes following some good pressure on the Sligo goal. Found in space at the edge of the Sligo box by Hoban, Keith Ward's measured shot curled over the outstretched arms of Rogers and on to the crossbar. The Bit o'Red had to rely on the awareness of Joseph Ndo just three minutes later. Meenan's corner was met by the head of centre half Andy Boyle who was unlucky to see his effort hooked off the line by the former Cameroon international.
The away side deservedly opened the lead on 41 minutes. Dane Massey's volley from 20 yards was misjudged by Rogers and the ball sneaked between the former St Pat's net minder and the crossbar to hand Dundalk a well earned advantage at the break.
The Louth side almost doubled their lead seven minutes into the second period. With Sligo committing players forward, some neat interplay between Mountney and Hoban found space behind Rovers' last defender Jeff Henderson, but Mountney failed to force Rogers into a save with his wayward effort from ten yards.
Sligo readjusted on the hour mark with the introduction of Kieran Djilali in place of the disappointing Danny Ventre. They immediately looked more purposeful in attack and Jeff Henderson saw his header glance over Cherrie's goal on 65 minutes when he rose highest to get on the end of a Ross Gaynor cross from the right.
Rovers' hopes of finding a way back in to the game were all but dashed 20 minutes from time when Elding was shown a red card from referee Paul McLaughlin for an off the ball incident.
Sligo came close to that elusive equaliser only moments later, as Greene's mazy run on 72 minutes brought him past a number of Dundalk defenders before Boyle robbed him of possession with a fantastic last ditch tackle just as Greene steadied to pull the trigger 6 yards from goal.
Dundalk looked as if they were assured to take home the full quota of points on 78 minutes after Rogers upended Mountney inside the Sligo box, but Hoban saw his spot kick cannon back off the post. The ball fell to O'Donnell who, from 30 yards, saw his rasping shot palmed away by Rogers.
Dundalk were reduced to ten men four minutes into added time when O'Donnell was shown his second yellow card of the night. O'Donnell was adjudged by referee McLaughlin to have dived after being challenged by Peers at the edge of the Sligo area.
Sligo Rovers: Gary Rogers; Alan Keane, Gavin Peers, Jeff Henderson, Ross Gaynor (for Iarfhlaith Davoren 79); Raffaele Cretaro (for Pascal Millien 81), Joseph Ndo, Danny Ventre (for Kieran Djilali 59), David Cawley, Aaron Greene; Anthony Elding.
Subs not used: Ciaran Kelly, Liam Martin, Ryan Connolly, Seamus Conneely.
Sent off: Elding 70
Dundalk: Peter Cherrie; Mark Rossiter, Andy Boyle, John Sullivan, Dane Massey; Darren Meenan (for Tiarnan Mulvenna 79), Richie Towell, Stephen O'Donnell, Keith Ward (for Stephen McDonnell 88); John Mountney (for Kurtis Byrne 93); Patrick Hoban.
Subs not used: Aaron Shanahan, Eoghan Osbourne, Vinny Faherty, John Dillon.
Sent off: O'Donnell 94