Cork City have extended their lead at the top of the SSE Airtricity Premier League Division to 16 points following a 2-1 victory over Sligo Rovers at The Showgrounds last night.
Sligo Rovers................. 1
Sadlier pen 23
Cork City....................... 2
Campion 64, O’Connor 81
This could prove a pivotal win in the title race, as for the second time this season John Caulfield’s Cork came back from behind to beat the north-westerners. The pressure is now all on their nearest challengers and champions Dundalk tonight as they host Derry City.
Sligo named one change from last week’s 1-1 draw away to St. Patrick’s Athletic, with Raffaele Cretaro coming in for Mikey Place.
Cork also made one alteration from their recent 5-0 drubbing of Drogheda United as Conor McCormack came in while Garry Buckley was a late withdrawal.
The league leaders should have taken the lead within two minutes of the kick-off when Michael Schlingermann produced a stunning double save from point-blank range to deny Jimmy Keohane and Karl Sheppard.
The Rovers caught Cork high up the pitch when they broke on a counter, with Chris Kenny finding Kieran Sadlier with a through ball. The winger tore down the left flank and saw his squared effort deflected into the side netting by Alan Bennett.
After a quiet 15-minute period, the game sparked back into life when Rovers were awarded a penalty after Liam Martin was fouled by Alan Bennett.
The club’s top scorer this season, Sadlier, stepped up for the spot-kick and made no mistake as he sent Mark McNulty the wrong way for his eighth goal of the season.
Cork continued to dominate possession but Rovers looked the more likely to add a second goal when Raffaele Cretaro floated a ball into the box for Jonah Ayunga who took a touch before seeing his deflected effort expertly clawed away by McNulty.
There was further uncertainty when McNulty was left stranded when competing for a corner as a loose ball fell to Martin, who saw his shot on goal cleared away by a defender before a long-range drive by Cretaro was well gathered by the veteran shot-stopper.
Cork started the second half on the front foot and looked to have made a clear run at goal by Kevin O’Connor, but the defender was stopped in the nick of time by Kyle Callan-McFadden.
Eight minutes into the half, Cork were awarded a penalty of their own when a well- crafted move found Karl Sheppard who was taken down by Callan-McFadden.
The usually reliable Maguire claimed responsibility for trying to draw the Leesiders level, but it wasn’t to be his moment as he dragged his effort well wide — the second time he has failed to convert a penalty at The Showgrounds in the last two seasons.
Cork finally found the back of the net 20 minutes into the second-half when John Dunleavy made his way down the right wing and squared a ball for former Rovers’ man Achille Campion to score from close range, just moments after the Frenchman was introduced as a substitute.
With little under 10 minutes to go, Cork took the lead when left-back Kevin O’Connor swung a corner into a congested box and the ball appeared to sail directly into the back of Schlingermann’s net.
Sligo responded quickly with an audacious effort from Liam Martin who saw a first time strike loop just wide of the target.
But City saw out the remainder of the game, and their relief at leaving The Showgrounds with three points was apparent in what proved to be yet another close, hard-fought encounter between the two outfits.
Michael Schlingermann, Gary Boylan, Kyle Callan-McFadden, Regan Donelon, Craig Roddan, Chris Kenny, Kieran Sadlier, Liam Martin, Raffaele Cretaro (Martin Walsh, 74), Jonah Ayunga (Mikey Place, 64).
Mark McNulty, John Dunleavy, Ryan Delaney, Alan Bennett, Kevin O’Connor, Greg Bolger, Conor McCormack (Achille Campion, 61), Stephen Dooley (John Kavanagh, 90), Jimmy Keohane, Karl Sheppard (Shane Griffin, 87), Sean Maguire.
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