Dundalk 4 Newtown 0
Dundalk can hardly be faulted, but this Europa Conference League qualifier looked exactly like it is: the bottom rung of the UEFA football ladder.
Theoretically, the only way is to go up.
“Irish clubs shouldn’t look too far ahead,” said Vinny Perth, weeks after taking over as manager. “We should be positive with any win in Europe at the moment. Tonight has been a good result for that reason.
Perhaps the latest virus outbreak in Newtown has denied the Welsh players more important than those the Dundalk three had to cope without. Whatever the reason for such a lopsided competition, the Lilywhites have protected the “European brand” Perth has been talking about this week as being vital to attracting international talent like Raivis Jurkovskis.
The Latvian full-back quickly realized that Newtown’s left flank was a leaking sieve. This is where the rules of engagement were laid down as Dundalk was ultimately content to score twice in the first half from crosses.
It took a nervous 27 minutes before Daniel Kelly’s ball at the far post was calmly finished by Michael Duffy.
The second goal, 12 minutes later, came on the performance of Darragh Leahy finding the lead of David McMillan. The Dubliner’s 12th European goal allows him to surpass the record previously held by Glen Crowe.
Perhaps the San Marino referee’s tonsils were not up to a night of relentless whistling, as many heavy challenges were overlooked.
It didn’t matter once Dundalk scored and Sonni Nattestad survived his sleepy response to a long ball that gave Jamie Breese a clear scoring chance seconds after the break.
It was also interesting to see the unwavering loyalty of one Welsh club to their country’s 3-4-3 scoring system. Regardless of what Dundalk showed them, they concentrated in a cluster of central organs as William Patching and Patrick McEleney took control of the midfield. Hence all this space to cross.
The patch ended up peeling off the edge of the box to make it 3-0.
It brought Perth to life on the sidelines as the two-legged tie-killing player.
Han Jeong-uh came off the bench to snatch a fourth with the very last touch of the game to make it nearly impossible to see progress hampered on next Tuesday’s trip to the Severn Valley.
“It was the most difficult week I have ever had at the club,” Perth said of the Covid panic that has spread to Oriel Park. “What we can’t do now is make seven, eight changes. We must continue to build.
Dundalk: Abibi; Jurkovskis, Boyle (captain), Nattestad, Leahy; Patching (Zahibo 81), McEleney, Stanton, Duffy; Kelly (Han 75), McMillan (Midtskogen 81).
New city: Jones; C Williams (captain), Mills-Evans, Roberts, Evans; Davies (Jones 89), Rowland (Mcallister 68), Fletcher; Rushton (Downes 89), A Williams, Bresse (Hesden 89).
Arbitrator: Barbeno Luca (San Marino)