Sligo Rovers 2 - 1 Derry City
MARK QUIGLEY scored his first Airtricity League goal for Sligo last night (Friday) to send Rovers seven points clear at the top -- thanks to his 85th minute strike, which secured a 2-1 away win against North West neighbours Derry City in the Brandywell.
In truth it was manager Ian Barraclough won the three points, with a couple of really shrewd substitutions - first Seamus Conneely and then Paschal Millien. Both were directly involved in the late winning goal.Woeful Night
Derry City lost at home or the fifth time this season and it wasnt hard to see why. True, they were without key players through injury and suspension but that isnt the full tale of a woeful night. Their play in the final third was too often poor, wasteful and without direction.
Rovers will be happy to have collected full points without the suspended Danny North, leading scorer in the Airtricity League. They welcomed back Jason McGuinness, chasing his third League medal.
Barry Molloy, who passed a late fitness test, did a fine job for Derry. Molloy seemed to velcro himself to Sligo's gifted midfielder Joseph N'Do; he shadowed him everywhere and the classy Cameroon international rarely got a chance to express himself last night.
Derry will also be pleased with the showing of their new recruit Conor Murphy....but it wont be enough to bring boom times back to the Brandywell any time soon.Sign For Optimism
Sligo, meanwhile, continues purposefully in pursuit of the third League title in their history and a first since 1977. They have taken four points in seven days without setting the world on fire. That has to be a sign for optimism. There is much more in this team. Their quality-in-depth of players will click, inevitably, to pulverise at least one team between now and the final fixture.
The big caveat/caution in this League title chase is that the Sligo squad is so small there is no room whatever for injuries in domestic games, or the two encounters coming up with their Slovakian opponents in Europe. Against a better team than Derry last night, the injury to Alan Keane -- whose constancy going forward from the back has been a key feature of Sligo's success -- might have stifled the supply lines. Boco, already playing well, did an excellent job in Keane's role last night. Crucial Final Pass
Over the 90 minutes, plus four added, Sligo's best player by far was, in fact, Romuald Boco. Everything he did or tried was pacy. He showed industry, intelligence, urgency. His was the crucial final pass for the winning goal in the 85th minute. Throughout, Boco ran at the Derry defence and it is a measure of his input that Alan Keane, who retired injured in the 40th minute, was never missed.
The Man of the Match award actually went to Alan Cawley, a hard grafter who put Sligo ahead in the 55th minute with a crisp shot from just outside the penalty box. In truth, the Derry keeper Ger Doherty should have stopped it.Poor Advertisement
The news for Rover fans could get better for them over this coming weekend as second placed St Patricks Athletic host Drogheda United who are in third place on Sunday afternoon. Again a draw might be the optimum outcome.
But there is no room for illusion, or delusion, this was a poor match, a poor advertisement for the domestic game in the Brandywell last night. The beaten team were an anaemic shadow of 'Candy Stripes' squads down the decades. The entertainment quotient for the neutral fan was on the low side.Relentless Intensity
At one stage last night Sligo deployed five players around the centre third of the park and the strategy permitted them to 'squeeze' the game late on, much as you might a tube of toothpaste to get the last drop. The winning goal, well worked, no wastage or spills as the ball was moved with speed, was a great example of the ''intensity'' which manager Ian Barraclough wants to see more of from his squad.
As in the drawn match against Bray last week Sligo last night often failed to show a relentlessness in their intensity. You expect to see that from championship contenders. Shelbourne underlined why Sligo lost two points last week when they went to Bray last night and three times took the lead in a 3-2 game. Took The Lead
Sligo took the lead on 55 minutes last night when David Cawley's swerved past the diving Gerard Doherty, who simply didnt appear to be expecting a shot by the Ballina man. His mistimed dive suggested a deflection in front of him but there didnt seem to be one, nor did the ball 'bend' in flight.
Just three minutes earlier, Doherty was the hero when Mark Quigley's left wing curling effort from just outside the penalty area, was heading for the far top corner but Doherty did a spectacular tip over the bar.Superb Pass
The teams were level when Derry debutante Conor Murphy threaded a superb pass in the 65th minute to David McDaid, who was running diagonally to meet the ball, inside the penalty box in front of goal, just in time to chip the advancing Sligo keeper Gary Rogers.
Earlier, Sligo made a bright start with Mark Quigley's header glancing just over after he met a curling in-swinger corner from Ross Gaynor.
Gaynor himself was then unlucky in the 26th minute when his low snap shot on the near post hit the woodwork, a shot for which Gerard Doherty dropped swiftly to cover.Claims For Penalties
Rovers thought they had claims for a penalty in the 12th minute when Rafael Cretaro appeared to be nudged and fell over in the box as he went for a ball flighted in by Alan Keane.
Derry had a penalty call of their own in the 30th minute as Alan Keane appeared to make contact with Ruaidhri Higgins inside the penalty area.
Just after the restart, Rovers keeper Gary Rogers moved swiftly to intercept after a dreadful Danny Ventre back pass near gifted Conor Murphy a dream start in his 'Candy Stripes' career.
Derry went close just before the half time break when Dermot McCaffrey's centre found Ruaidhri Higgins, but the midfielder's header inside the box went over.
Romuald Boco was inches away from adding to Sligo's lead coming up to the hour mark.
Fittingly, two Sligo substitutes were involved in the wining goal - Paschal Millien released a pass on the right to Seamus Conneely. His pull-back was swiftly played on by Boco into the path of Mark Quigley who drove it past Doherty from less than 10 yards out.
Millien almost capped a fine individual performance when he jinked his way past several leg weary Derry defenders in the 93rd minute but his final touch let him down for what would have been a super goal.
Finally, referee Damian Hancock had a good game; not a singe decision he made could be disputed, including those two penalty claims. He booked Owen Morrison and Conor Murphy of Derry, plus Sligo's Romuald Boco and Danny Ventre. Gavin Peers got carded for taking off his shirt to celebrate Sligo's late winner.
Derry City: Gerard Doherty, Eddie McCallion, Shane McEleney, Ryan McBride, Dermot McCaffrey, Patrick McEleney, Owen Morrison, Barry Molloy, Ruadhri Higgins, David McDaid, Conor Murphy. Subs: Marc Brolly for Murphy (83rd min), Ryan Curran for McCallion (89th min). Unused: Michael Barr, Tony McNamee, Michael Duffy and Barry McNamee.
Sligo Rovers: Gary Rogers, Alan Keane, Jason McGuinness, Gavin Peers, Ross Gaynor, Danny Ventre, Joseph N'Do, David Cawley, Romuald Boco, Mark Quigley, Rafael Cretaro. Subs: Seamus Conneely for Keane (40th minute - injured), Paschal Millien for Cretaro (73rd minute); John Dillon for Ventre (85th min). Unused: Iarfhlaith Davoren, Jeff Henderson, Lee Lynch and Richard Brush.
Referee: Damian Hancock.