Sligo Rovers took all three points this evening as they dismissed the challenge of Drogheda United in the Showgrounds thanks to two goals from Liverpudlian John Dillon.
It was not the victory itself, but the manner in which it was achieved which left the Rovers fans over the moon as they left the Showgrounds. The game saw a return to the free flowing, short passing football which they used to such effect last year. Attacking was competed eight men at a time, with both Alan Keane and Iarfhlaith Davoren overlapping to great effect, bombarding the Drogheda box with crossed ball over and over again throughout the night.
The opening goal came in the fourth minute courtesy of a ball from Aaron Greene on the left, which fed a space rich Richie Ryan in the middle of the pitch about 25 yards from the Drogheda goal. Ryan fancying his chances shot low and his shot danced off the grass on the way to the bouncing off the post. Michael Quirke pushed the ball to Dillon on the right of the goal and he lifted the ball over Quirke from a tight angle to put Rovers one ahead.
The Bit O'Red used the early goal to great effect as it gave them the confidence and the freedom to play the ball on the ground without the need to hoof the ball forward needlessly. They all looked at ease on the ball, unlike any other performance so far this season.
The score should have been levelled about 12 minutes after Dillon's goal, when some great football from Drogheda's two O'Briens (Colin and Mark) presented Dave Freeman with a guilt edge opportunity in front of Brendan Clarke's goal. Freeman however spurned his chance and his shot from six yards went over and wide.
While Drogheda only had one shot of note in first half, a stellar performance from David Quirke in the Drogheda goal was required in order to keep the score down to 1-0 at the break. After first saving a penalty from Alan Keane, which came about after Davoren was felled in the box, Quirke saved a certain goal when he cleared a cross from the right which seemed destined to be headed home by the high jumping Gavin Peers. Just as the ball was about to land on Peers' head, Quirke fisted it away to prevent Rovers taking a 2-0 lead.
The game itself could have seen Sligo Rovers win by much more. Chances fell to John Russell, Raffaele Cretaro and John Dillon repeatedly throughout the game, with Dillon grabbing his second on the 68th minute. After a Cretaro cross, Russell's shot was deflected on to the bar by a stray leg. The ball bounced onto the bar and fell kindly to Dillon who lashed it home through a barrier of bodies to the back of the net.
Rovers then controlled the game. The play from Rovers evened up, and they conserved possession more, with Eoin Doyle's trickery keeping the crowd entertained. Overall, Sligo Rovers were excellent tonight while it will prove to be a long long season for Mick Cooke's Drogheda.
Sligo Rovers: Brendan Clarke; Alan Keane, Gavin Peers, Jason McGuinness, Iarfhaith Davoren; John Dillon (Eoin Doyle 69), Richie Ryan, Alan Kirby (Mark McGoldrick 90+1), John Russell, Aaron Greene; Raffaele Cretaro (Matthew Blinkhorn 69).
Subs not used: Ciaran Kelly (gk), Danny Ventre, Derek Foran, Barry O'Mahony.
Booked: Russell (55).
Drogheda United: David Quirke; Brian Gannon, Stephen Quigley, Gareth Whelan, Anthony Costigan (Stephen McCrossan 33); Colin O'Brien, John Lester (Jack Flynn 62), Mark O'Brien, Philip Hand; Dinny Corcoran, David Freeman (Philip McDonagh 74).
Subs not used: Stephen Trimble (gk), Darragh Hanaphy, Sean Skelly, Victor Ekanem.
Booked: Lester (16), Gannnon (35), Quirke (38), C O'Brien (78).
Referee: Paul Tuite.
Extratime.ie Man of the Match: Alan Kirby (Sligo Rovers).