Robbie Fahy reports from the Showgrounds.
Early goals in each half gave Sligo Rovers a 2-1 win over Shelbourne and lifted them into 8th place in the SSE Airtricity League Premier Division on a sunny Saturday evening at the Showgrounds.
A late Gary Deegan goal gave Shelbourne a deserved consolation goal but they will now be looking over their shoulders, that’s three defeats in four games for them.
It was just thirty seconds after Rob Hennessy signalled the start of the game when Sligo Rovers took the lead.
Centre forward Ronan Coughlan picked the scraps off a long ball from Danny Kane before releasing Ryan De Vries down the left hand side.
The New Zealander used a slick step-over to ghost by Aidan Friel, looked up and floated a ball into Jesse Devers who rose highest to nod it past Shelbourne netminder Colin McCabe and put the home side in front.
That early set-back didn’t deter the Dubliners and they should have been level eight minutes later.
Dale Rooney evaded ‘bit o’ red’ full-back Darragh Noone and swung in a dangerous low ball which Danny Kane made a mess of. Ryan Brennan was positioned perfectly but managed to skew the ball wide from 12 yards out with the goal at his mercy.
Ian Morris’ side were methodical in the opening half hour, passing in neat triangles but struggling to find the cutting edge when they did work into the final third.
Gary Deegan and Sean Quinn were the ringleaders, vocally directing a high press from the centre of the park, but also finding themselves dictating the play.
Unfortunately for Shelbourne, it was from very deep areas.
Conversely, Sligo sat into their customary low block and looked to release Coughlan, De Vries and Devers early and often. It’s a tactic that proved efficient against Derry City last week and one that gave Shelbourne’s full-backs problems from start to finish too.
As the first half wore on the game settled into familiar patterns. Both teams had spells of pressure and chances. Rooney, buoyed by his early success against Noone started to drop into pockets and had two wonderful long range shots with his left. Unfortunately for him both whizzed over Ed McGinty’s crossbar in the Sligo goal.
Liam Buckley’s side had their opportunities too. Devers, Coughlan and Morahan combined well to craft another chance for De Vries before Darragh Noone made his way forward to flash a ball across the six yard box and cause David Cawley to hurl himself, but crucially not the ball into the Shels net.
The second period started much like the first.
Rejuvenated by the words of their manager at half time, the home side once again began brightly. Good work by Devers fashioned a corner for Regan Donelon. The left back is known for his set piece delivery and he didn’t disappoint the lucky locals in attendance.
A whipped corner in from the right was greeted by a cluster of players, none of whom could make a telling connection. However, the rebound dropped kindly for Cawley who swept home his first goal of the season to put Sligo firmly in the ascendancy.
That goal came less than five minutes into the half but Ian Morris reacted sharply, sending on reinforcements in the form of Aaron Dobbs and Georgie Poynton and to their credit, they added some impetuous to the Shels attack.
Despite the fresh legs, it wasn’t long before the game fell into a familiar shape, Shelbourne probing in possession and Sligo playing through their focal point of Ronan Coughlan.
All told, the second half was a more stop-start affair.
The warm day, whistle happy refereeing and the tempo with which Ian Morris was demanding of his players combining to slow the pace down. Interestingly no water breaks took place, something which has been a feature of much cooler and calmer fixtures since the re-start.
Chances were few and far between. Sean Quinn and substitute Daniel O’Reilly sent balls far into the railway end for the visitors while De Vries and Coughlan both wasted good chances themselves, much to the frustration of an animated Liam Buckley.
However it’s Morris who will leave the Showgrounds a much more frustrated figure. His side dominated long spells of possession in this game but they ultimately couldn’t fashion many chances or test McGinty often enough.
Gary Deegan capped a fine performance by pulling one back half-way through six minutes of added time but even then, Shels failed to capitalise on that momentum and the final few minutes petered out uneventfully.
For Sligo it’s a much needed second win in seven days and they’ll look forward to a crucial tie with Cork City with the added bonus of last season’s SSE Airtricity League top scorer Junior Ogedi-Uzokwe becoming available for selection.
Shelbourne’s next game sees Derry travel to Tolka Park, fearing the loser could be sucked back towards the bottom end of the table.
Sligo Rovers: Ed McGinty, Darragh Noone, Danny Kane, Kyle-Callan McFadden, Regan Donelon, David Cawley, Will Seymore (John Russell 55’), Niall Morahan, Jesse Devers, Ryan De Vries (Alex Cooper 80’), Ronan Coughlan.
Subs not used: Johnny Dunleavy, Mark Byrne, Luke McNicholas, Ronan Murray, Sigitas Olberkis.
Booked: Regan Donelon (53), John Russell (67).
Sent off: None.
Shelbourne FC: Colin McCabe, Aidan Friel (Oscar Brennan 79’), Alex O’Hanlon, Luke Byrne (Daniel O’Reilly 60’), Gary Deegan, Sean Quinn (Alex Cetiner 79’), Ciaran Kilduff, Ryan Brennan (Georgie Poynton 51’), Dayle Rooney, Jaze Kabia (Aaron Dobbs 51’) , Daniel Byrne.
Subs not used: Jack Brady, Daniel O’Reilly, Oscar Brennan, Aaron Dobbs, Georgie Poynton, Alex Cetiner, Denzil Fernandes.
Booked: Ciaran Kilduff (56), Oscar Brennan (90+5).
Sent off: None.
Referee: Rob Hennessy
ExtraTime.ie Player of the Match: Jesse Devers (Sligo Rovers).