Struggling Sligo Rovers picked up a massive result in front of their home fans when beating high-flying Shamrock Rovers 1-0 in a fiery contest – a win that takes the Bit O’Red out of the relegation places and up to eighth place in the top flight standings.
John Russell, one of the home side’s best players netted what proved to be the winner after four minutes but his sending off, with 56 minutes played, left the diligent Sligo defence to hold out against a Rovers side who just couldn’t get the better of Sligo goalkeeper Micheal Schlingermann.
On paper, this appeared a mismatch given the respective fortunes of the two Rovers in recent weeks. Shamrock Rovers came to The Showgrounds boosted by their Europa League win in Iceland last Thursday which was their fourth victory in six competitive games.
Struggling Sligo, meanwhile, had failed to win any of their previous seven Premier Division encounters and went into this game placed in the relegation zone, 10th - just one point above bottom side Galway United.
Each side were without a player due to a one-match suspension so Rovers’ forward Graham Burke sat out the game as did Sligo’s defender Kyle Callan-McFadden.
Sligo certainly didn’t let their current travails affect them as they went in front with a fine goal after four minutes when John Russell got his head to a splendid cross from Kieran Sadlier.
Although Sligo didn’t threaten to increase their lead as proceedings unfolded they were working hard to curb Rovers, whose best opening in the first-half was a 29th minute shot on target from Simon Madden.
Sligo went close to doubling their lead after 43 minutes but Raffaele Cretaro’s cross-cum-shot was narrowly wide as Daniel Kearns was only inches away from getting a decisive touch.
There were chances at both ends at the start of the second-half. Rovers’ midfielder Sam Bone had a 47th minute shot that needed Micheal Schlingermann’s intervention and two minutes later Kieran Sadlier was just off target with a curling drive.
The dismissal of John Russell after 56 minutes – he was shown a second yellow card by referee Neil Doyle after a challenge on Simon Madden – left Sligo facing a backs-to-the-wall second-half.
Rovers were then twice frustrated by Micheal Schlingermann – he touched substitute Michael O’Connor’s drive onto the post and was then alert to keep out Gary Shaw’s well-struck effort from a tight angle.
The home support were later on edge when Ronan Finn was just off target with a fizzing, low drive from distance in the 85th minute.
A 90th minute corner was missed by Schlingermann but Roberto Lopes’ header was cleared off the line by Mick Leahy as Sligo somehow stayed in front. In stoppage-time a Sligo counter-attack – following a Rovers corner – nearly led to a second goal but full-back Tobi Adebayo-Rowling’s placed effort from distance was just wide of an empty goal as Rovers goalkeeper was in the other goalmouth having ventured upfield for the last-gasp corner.
Schlingermann; Adebayo-Rowling, Leahy, Sharkey, Donelon; Ayunga (Place 73), Russell, Boylan, Sadlier; Kearns (Kenny 60), Cretaro (Martin 82).
Chencinski; Madden, Webster, Lopes, Byrne (Boyd 76); Bone (O’Connor 60), Connolly; Clarke (Doona 56), Finn, Miele; Shaw.
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