Champions Shamrock Rovers are still playing catch-up in the Premier Division as leaders Sligo Rovers were full value for a point in last night’s entertaining encounter at Tallaght Stadium.
The Hoops remain seven points adrift of Sligo while the latter also have a match in hand. With 11 matches to play, Sligo can really start believing that this could be their first taste of title glory since 1978.
The Hoops, without the injured Pat Sullivan, had a glorious chance to open their account in the first minute when Joseph Ndo lost possession to enable Gary McCabe to squeeze the ball through to the unmarked Tommy Stewart.
The striker’s shot from point-blank range was blocked by the advancing Gary Rogers in the Sligo goal, however, and scrambled away to safety. McCabe then had a long-range effort well gathered by the keeper.
Pascal Millien was causing problems for the Hoops with his intricate footwork and after beating Kerrea Gilbert on the left, his dangerous cross was cut out by the alert home keeper, Oscar Jansson.
Sligo, who were minus the suspended David Cawley and the injured Danny North, were the more creative side in the early stages with Ndo and Danny Ventre dominating the midfield sector. It was certainly not against the run of play when the Westerners got their noses in front on 32 minutes. A free from Ndo was chested back by Millien for Mark Quigley to fire home an unstoppable shot from 25 yards that gave Jansson no chance.
Sligo might have stretched their lead seconds before the interval when a header across goal by Quigley found unmarked Benin international Romauld Boco.
His close-range effort wasbrilliantly blocked by Jansson but, in truth, he should not have been given any chance. Killian Brennan went close to an equaliser for the Hoops early in the second half when a clearance by Jason McGuinness fell into the winger’s path, only for his 20-yard effort to fly narrowly wide of the upright.
Whatever manager Stephen Kenny had said to his players at half time, it seemed to have the desired effect with the Hoops a rejuvenated outfit.
After the Dublin club had appeals for a penalty turned down, the Sligo defence only partially cleared the ball and Ronan Finn was able to smash a brilliant 25-yard first-time effort into the roof of the net giving Rogers no chance.
Gary Twigg might have had the Hoops in front but delayed his shot and the chance was wasted.
Straight up the other end a mix-up between Jansson and Gilbert almost let in danger man Millien only for Colin Hawkins to get back and clear the ball.
Late on, Conor Powell had one long-range effort just off target for the home team as the Hoops threw everyone forward in a bid for that precious winner.
Finn then had an effort blocked for a corner but it was too little too late with the Hoops having to settle for a draw that was much more use to the visitors.
SHAMROCK ROVERS: Jansson; Gilbert, Sives, Hawkins, Powell; Brennan (Dennehy 78) , Finn, Rice, McCabe; Twigg (Kavanagh 86), Stewart (Kilduff 62).
SLIGO ROVERS: Rogers; Keane, Peers, McGuinness, Gaynor; Connely, Ndo (Lynch 86), Ventre, Boco; Quigley, Millien (Cretaro 73).
Referee: Anthony Buttimer (Cork).
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