DFC | Benson bags a brace as Dundalk FC cruise to victory against Bray Wanderers
SSE Airtricity League of Ireland | Bray Wanderers 0–3 Dundalk FC
Robbie Benson bagged a brace by the seaside as Dundalk continued their impressive run of form with a comfortable win against Bray Wanderers at a sun-drenched Carlisle Grounds on Friday night.
The 25-year-old was impressive throughout with his bursts from deep positions and he capped a fine showing with two first-half goals before Patrick McEleney put the cap on a commanding display by the visitors.
With the Champions League tie with Rosenborg just over two weeks away, the Lilywhites seem to have found their groove at just the right time.
Stephen Kenny’s side has now won all four games since returning from the mid-season break, scoring 15 goals in the process and conceding none. This latest shutout was their eighth in the last nine league games.
With new boy Dylan Connolly watching on from the stand, Kenny rotated his starting XI with Stephen O’Donnell, Jamie McGrath, Niclas Vemmelund and Brian Gartland restored to the team.
And the game was less than two minutes old when Dundalk made the breakthrough, the result of a rapid counter-attack from one end of the pitch to the other.
Gary McCabe’s corner from the right was cleared and suddenly Dundalk were on the move. Swift passes from McMillan and then Michael Duffy saw the ball come to Patrick McEleney.
His through ball found Benson and the midfielder skipped around Peter Cherrie to roll the ball home, much to the delight of the big away support.
The visitors took complete control after that with Duffy curling an effort with the outside of his right-boot past the post after a brilliant crossfield pass by Vemmelund.
Despite winning plenty of corners, Harry Kenny’s home side offered little from open play and they squandered a good opportunity to equalise when Anto Flood headed a Gary McCabe corner over the top on the quarter hour.
O’Donnell limped off prematurely five minutes later with an ankle injury. The Lilywhites skipper was replaced by Chris Shields and the substitute played an instrumental part in Dundalk’s superb second goal six minutes later.
Some nifty footwork by Jamie McGrath saw him cut in from the left and roll the ball to the incoming Benson on the edge of the penalty area. A subsequent one-two with Shields ended with the Athlone native applying a tasty finish.
Bray’s only real chance of getting back into it came in the 37th minute when Mark Salmon’s well-hit effort was well parried by Gary Rogers. Dane Massey did well to hack the loose ball clear.
The same pattern applied in the second-half. Dundalk looked in cruise control and McEleney made it 3–0 with another spectacular effort, burying a left-footed drive inside Cherrie’s post.
Michael Duffy went close to making it four in the dying stages but his curling effort just went the wrong side of Cherrie’s far post.
BRAY WANDERERS: Peter Cherrie; Hugh Douglas, Conor Kenna, Keith Buckley, Kevin Lynch; Aaron Greene, John Sullivan, Gary McCabe (Jason Marks 79), Mark Salmon (Darragh Noone 65), Ryan Brennan; Anto Flood (Ger Pender 65). Subs not used: Lee Steacy (GK), Conor Earley, Alan Kehoe, Jamie Aherne.
DUNDALK FC: Gary Rogers; Sean Gannon, Brian Gartland, Niclas Vemmelund, Dane Massey; Robbie Benson, Stephen O’Donnell (Chris Shields 20); Michael Duffy, Patrick McEleney, Jamie McGrath (John Mountney 58); David McMillan (Ciaran Kilduff 79). Subs not used: Gabriel Sava (GK), Paddy Barrett, Sean Hoare, Thomas Stewart.
REFEREE: Rob Rogers. ATTENDANCE: 1538.