In a tight contest at Oriel Park a stoppage time first half penalty gave Dundalk the win over a determined Sligo Rovers.
League champions Dundalk were frustrated for much of the game by a well-organised Rovers side who could have come away with something having been on top for much of the second half.
The one change made to the team that drew away to St. Pat’s was the inclusion of Raff Cretaro up front in place of Jaanai Gordon.
The home side made the stronger start out of the traps with their first shot at goal coming from Daryl Horgan on six minutes. The winger drifted infield from his left wing position and shot but he couldn’t direct it towards the target.
A cleared cross two minutes later sent the ball into the feet of Dane Massey but he was unable to get a good connection of his strike and ballooned it over from 20 yards.
Rovers first threatened with a free-kick on 15 minutes. It was awards almost 35 yards about but Kieran Sadlier had the confidence to go for goal and his shot lacked no power but flew just wide of the post.
The Lilywhite’s best chance came midway through the half for David McMillan. The ex-Rovers forward saw the ball drop to him in space inside the penalty area but his mis-hit shot didn’t trouble Micheal Schlingermann.
Two Rovers shots came on 34 minutes. First when Sadlier again tried direct from a free-kick but the wall was able to stop this one. However Rovers maintained the ball and possession came to John Russell, he seen his low effort come off the feet of big defender Andy Boyle and away to safety.
As the half reached its conclusion a good block by Liam Martin forced Darren Meenan’s drive away for a corner. When the ball came into the box the referee blew for a penalty to Dundalk.
Ronan Finn stepped up to take the spot-kick and he hammered it home in the very last act of the first half.
An undeterred Rovers side came out strongly to start the second 45 minutes. With just two minutes gone Martin cut in to shoot low but there was defensive legs in the way to knock the ball away. That seen it fall to Sadlier and he tested Gary Rogers in goals but he was able to save a fairly central shot.
The Bit o’Red came even closer putting a great move together on 56 minutes. John Russell took possession from Dundalk and sent the ball out left where Martin was on the run. He quickly played the ball into the middle and Jimmy Keohane was rushing in but his shot with the inside of his boot rolled across the face of goal and wide.
Raff Cretaro found his way to the right wing and delivered to the heart of the box, Martin was there for a header which just went off target.
On 70 minutes Daryl Horgan directly shot from a free-kick given just outside the box, he got it nicely over the wall but saw it finish just over.
Three minutes later Dundalk got the ball in over the top for McMillan making a run forward but Michael Leahy tracked him all the way and made a timely tackle to knock the ball away.
The introductions of Phil Roberts and Jaanai Gordon to Rovers attacking options added impetus late on as an equaliser was sought but ultimately Dundalk held strong to keep the clean sheet and take all three points to top the table.
Dundalk: Rogers, Gannon, Gartland, Boyle, Massey, Meenan (Mountney 75), O'Donnell(c), Finn, Horgan, McMillan, Kilduff (Shields 58).
Rovers: Schlingermann, Adebayo-Rowling, Leahy, Boylan, Donelon, Roddan(c), Russell (Roberts 69), Keohane, Sadlier, Martin, Cretaro (Gordon 87).
Post match interview: Dave Robertson