Graham Cummins missed a host of chances to make himself the hero on his Shamrock Rovers debut as the former Cork City striker suffered the yips in front of goal.
A week after leaving Cork, citing a desire to help the Hoops win the Premier Division title, Cummins was unable to provide the clinical edge needed to make the breakthrough against a resolute Sligo Rovers rearguard.
Dundalk’s draw in Derry means it’s as you were at the top of the table — Rovers trail by eight — but they should have strolled this one.
Greg Bolger, another former City man, was continually at his teammates to keep the ball moving quickly. Jack Byrne and Sean Kavanagh had no issues, their speed of thought is above some others in green and white, but the latter will wake up thinking about the open goal he spurned from 15 yards.
A deflected Dylan Watts shot fell perfectly into his path after 19 minutes, but Kavanagh’s scuffed effort looped over with out-of-position goalkeeper Ed McGinty.
There were groans from the home fans who, 10 minutes later, were on their feet in anger after referee Neil Doyle waved away what looked to be a strong penalty claim.
Clarke’s deft cross to the back post was primed for Cummins to nod home in the six-yard box, but the striker took a tumble with defender John Mahon seemingly barging into him from behind.
That appeared to take the wind out of Rovers’ attacking sails, until a late flurry before the break stirred them back into life. Cummins should have opened his account for his new club with a header near the penalty spot, but he clipped the bar when Bolger had flighted the ideal cross.
It summed up a night of total frustration for the ex-City striker. He toiled in the lone frontman role and was unable to give his new supporters reason to believe he can provide that killer instinct to rein in Dundalk’s lead at the top of the table.
What would have endeared him to the Rovers faithful was his unrelenting work ethic. His first touch may have been poor on occasion when balls were fizzed into his feet, but Cummins continued to put in the hard yards.
And the chances didn’t stop either. Byrne, Rovers’ chief creator, slid through a perfectly-weighted pass between Mahon and Dante Leverock just before the hour and Cummins was bearing straight through on goal.
He got his shot away, but McGinty was alert and was able to smother the effort.
It was a similar story in the 64th minute. Once again, Byrne saw the run of Cummins and had the ability to pick him out. The first touch was good, but McGinty was equal to it.
From then on Rovers huffed and puffed, but the Sligo defence held firm.
SHAMROCK ROVERS: Mannus; O’Brien, Lopes, Grace, Clarke; Finn (Carr 59), Bolger (O’Neill 63), Watts (Greene 76), Byrne, S Kavanagh; Cummins.
SLIGO ROVERS: McGinty; McFadden, Leverock, Mahon; Dunleavy, Russell, Cawley (Morahan 77), Parkes, Banks; Murray; Coughlan.
Referee: N Doyle (Dublin).