League Report: Shelbourne 1 - 1 Sligo Rovers
A Niall Morahan screamer in the first half earned a point on the road for Sligo Rovers on Friday evening at Tolka Park.
Damien Duff made four changes from the side that defeated Drogheda United in an exciting game on Monday night. Mark Coyle, Sean Boyd, Evan Caffrey, and Tyreke Wilson all came into the side, replacing J.R Wilson, Jack Moylan, Jad Hakiki, and skipper Luke Byrne. Brian McManus, who played on Monday, was out after having knee surgery during the week.
Sligo manager John Russell, who has had to deal with an injury crisis in the last few weeks, was boosted by the return of Nando Pijnaker at centre back alongside the returning John Mahon. Greg Bolger returned for the Bit O’ Red in the centre of the park, replacing David Cawley, who was dropped to the bench.
There was a late change to the visitor’s line-up with Frank Liivak drafted in ahead of Reece Hutchinson, who was not even named on the bench. Another concern for Russell.
Not even a minute into the match, the Shelbourne boss bellowed at his side for starting the match too slowly, asking them to pick up the pace.
And they certainly did that in the 4th minute when they opened the scoring. After a horrendous error at the back by Pijnacker, Boyd latched onto the loose ball, controlled it, and laid it back to the onrushing Matty Smith who placed it in the net to make it 1-0 to the home side.
However, Smith’s night was to end prematurely after he landed awkwardly following a John Mahon tackle. Despite attempting to continue, he had to be replaced by Jack Moylan.
Sligo, after a poor start, grew into the game. Johan Brannefalk’s corner kick deliveries were a constant danger, causing issues for the Reds' defence. Pijnacker had a great opportunity to atone for his error but he guided his header over the bar.
The Bit O’ Red began to dominate proceedings, controlling the ball for large stages of the first half. They had a couple more half chances with a Will Fitzgerald long-range effort stinging the palms of Conor Kearns in the Shels goal. Liivak looked like he was through when slipped in, but his touch let him down as the ball rolled to the Shelbourne keeper.
The Reds should have made it 2-0 at the half-hour mark. Another mistake in the Sligo defence, this time by Danny Lafferty, led to an awful back pass and Moylan was through one on one. However, he struck his shot straight at McNicholas who did enough to put it behind for a corner. A huge let off for the visitors.
Minutes later, Sligo got a deserved equaliser. After another Brannefalk corner was half cleared, the ball looped to the edge of the box where Niall Morahan unleashed a half volley from 25 yards out and beat Kearns to make it 1-1. A cracking goal and a definite goal of the month contender.
This was only Sligo’s second goal in seven games, their last being in the 1-0 win against Derry City last month.
Max Mata had the first opportunity of the second half when he capitalised on some slack defending by Shels. However, the Kiwi was caught in two minds whether to pass or shoot and in the end did neither as the chance went begging.
Shels struggled throughout with creativity in the middle of the park, with many of the passes either going square or back. An area they will hope to address in the window with the news that Hull City owner Acun Ilicali has taken a majority shareholding in the club.
Just after the 60th minute mark, Coyle drove at the heart of the Sligo defence and won a free kick for the home side on the edge of the box. The free kick was played short to Lunney who had a shot from distance, but his effort was well held by McNicholas.
Both managers made changes throughout the second half, hoping that it would ignite the spark to give their side the crucial second goal. Moylan was the one Duff’s men looked to provide the magic to open up a dogged Sligo team.
As the second half wore on, Sligo wilted and began to drop deeper, allowing the home side to pen them in. They had long spells of possession, working the ball out wide, but were wasteful with their crosses, in particular, Shane Farrell as they failed to beat the first man.
On occasions, they broke on the counterattack, winning corner kicks. Substitute Karlin Barlow, on the break, found a yard of space, twisted, and turned but he curled his effort just by the post.
Shels huffed and puffed for a late winner, putting in corners and long throw-ins but were unable to breach a stubborn Sligo defence. In the dying moments, Sligo could have nicked it. Another dangerous Brannefalk corner was met by John Mahon who saw his header cleared off the line. On the second phase, Sligo recycled and put it in again, this time Mata met the crossbar, but his header hit the crossbar and bounced wide.
An exciting end to a dull second half as both teams had to settle for a point. John Russell will be the happier of the two after a disappointing run of results. For Shelbourne, they will see this as two points dropped, the Moylan miss when it was 1-0 proved costly in the end.
Shelbourne: Conor Kearns; Shane Farrell (Kameron Ledwidge 72), Shane Griffin, Gavin Molloy, Andrew Quinn, Tyreke Wilson; Evan Caffrey, Mark Coyle (Kyle Robinson 71), JJ Lunney; Sean Boyd (Jad Hakiki 57), Matty Smith (Jack Moylan 14).
Subs not used: Daithi Folan, John Ross Wilson, David Toure, Luke Byrne, Conor Kane.
Booked: Sean Boyd (20), Andrew Quinn (52).
Sent off: None.
Sligo Rovers: Luke McNicholas; Johan Brannefalk, Frank Liiva (Stefan Radosavljevic 66), Daniel Lafferty, John Mahon, Nando Pijnaker; Greg Bolger (Kailin Barlow 57), Lukas Browning (David Cawley 66), William Fitzgerald, Niall Morahan; Max Mata.
Subs not used: Richard Brush, Owen Elding, Eli Rooney.
Booked: John Mahon (45), Niall Morahan (63).
Sent off: None.
Referee: Rob Harvey
extratime.com Player of the Match: John Mahon (Sligo Rovers)