SSE AIRTRICITY PREMIER DIVISION:
Shamrock Rovers 1 Sligo Rovers 0
These are testing times for Ian Baraclough and, despite seeing his side play with plenty of spirit in the second half as they chased an equaliser, Ryan Brennan’s early strike means that Sligo have now lost three league games, which matches their entire total in the 2012 title-winning campaign.
They didn’t lack endeavour but a shortage of quality in the attacking third continually let them down and it was Trevor Croly’s side who should have made things easier for themselves but they failed to take a clutch of second-half chances.
The home side took the lead on 14 minutes after a lightning break. Sligo had been warned four minutes earlier when a replica moved ended with Alan Greene scrambling to clear a fizzed Ciaran Kilduff cross.
However, after Jason McGuinness had dispossessed Danny North on the edge of the home box and, with some eyes still on the pair as the Sligo striker seemed to raise his hands to the defender, Kilduff found space on the right to drive a ball across the box that Brennan steamed in to finish.
Aaron Greene then attempted to drag Baraclough’s side back into it with a rasping shot that was deflected for a corner.
Sligo finally applied some pressure on the home goal just after the half-hour mark. A period of pandemonium in the box finished with Barry Murphy prone after he had collided with the post while flinging himself at a point-blank header from North. And, after some claims for a penalty when Sean Maguire went down under a challenge, Seamus Conneely squared for Eric Odhiambo who hammered a shot off the top of the crossbar. Murphy eventually rose shakily to his feet following four minutes of treatment and had to race off his line a minute later with North lurking.
Baraclough made a tactical adjustment at the break with Odhiambo repositioned behind North and Maguire moving wide.
Maguire, however, was soon withdrawn to be replaced with Joseph Ndo but, if Baraclough’s idea was more control in midfield, the move initially served to weaken Sligo’s defensive structure.
First, Simon Madden and Brennan combined to free Kilduff, whose shot from 20 yards was palmed away by Gary Rogers. And, after Madden saw an effort headed over by Jeff Henderson, Finn could have doubled the lead with a shot that was deflected away for a corner.
Ndo was by now effectively playing as an auxiliary centre-back, which allowed full-backs Greene and Conneely to push on.
The change in shape had the effect of pinning the home side back and Sligo should have levelled only for David Cawley and then Odhiambo to have shots cleared off the line.
But the last chance fell to the home side and Kilduff looked like he was about to make it 2-0 in the last minute when he intercepted a dreadful Henderson header only to screw a shot wide after rounding Rogers.
SHAMROCK ROVERS: B Murphy; S Madden, C Kenna, J McGuinness, L Byrne; R Brennan, R Finn, S Robinson; G McCabe, C Kilduff, S O’Connor (K Sheppard 83).
SLIGO ROVERS: G Rogers; A Keane, J Henderson, E McMillan, A Greene; K Djilali, D Cawley (J Russell 75), S Conneely, E Odhiambo (P O’Connor 81); S Maguire (J Ndo 57), D North.
Referee: Neil Doyle (Dublin).
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