Drogheda United: 2 - 1 Sligo Rovers
SLIGO ROVERS set Hunky Dorys Park in Drogheda alight alright, but it was their hordes of travelling fans on the terraces who fanned the flames and not the players on the field as The Bit o' Red were outclassed by a home team which should have won by a wider margin than 2-1 last night (Friday).
"Leggy" was the word used by manager Ian Barraclough on RTE to describe the lack of match fitness/staying power of some of his newcomers.
The lethargy also seemed to apply to many of the Airtricity League 2012 champions regulars, for the greater part of the night.
Like the mighty Humpty Dumpty himself, Rovers had a bit of a ''great fall'' last night; they won the League six days ago and hadnt been beaten in nearly six months. Sligo didnt see this coming as they had thrashed Drogheda in the Showgrounds.
But unlike Mr Dumpty, Rovers will be very much 'together' again -- and barking mad -- to meet age-old nemesis Shamrock Rovers. That fixture, anytime, is the Irish football equivalent of The Ashes in the cricket calendar.Always Entertaining
Last night's game offered plenty of goalmouth incidents and was always entertaining for the crowd, officially 1,181.
To boot, Sligo Rovers served up the sweetest and most sublime movement of the night. That came in the 66th minute when the teams were tied at 1-1.
John Dillon was merely seconds on the field when he placed a super through ball in front of Ryan Connolly. Moving into the box from the right Connolly did everything right but Sava in the Drogheda goal accidentally -- nothing else -- caught the ball with his foot in a hopeful dive as the ball, placed perfectly, headed for the far low corner.
Only Liam Buchanan enhanced his reputation throughout in a game where the home side could and should have gone ahead as early as twenty seconds when Ryan Brennan set up his brother, Sean, whose strong header went narrowly wide of Brush's right upright.
One Way Traffic
It was mostly one way traffic in the first half as the home team chased a place in next season's Europa League. Drogheda could/should have been 3-0 ahead at the interval; O'Brien, Hand and Foley all had good chances. for the home team.
Sligo might have gone ahead coming up the half hour but Liam Buchanan's strong shot from 25 yards was always rising. Sava still opted for a spectacular tip over the bar.
Drogheda went 1-0 ahead in the 30th minute when captain Alan McNally placed a perfect header from Philip Hand's corner on the left well beyond the diving reach of Sligo keeper Richard Brush, getting his first full game of the season.Hungry All Night
Sligo's best chance of the half came in the 35th minute when Joseph N'Do -- in one of his quiter games -- picked out Lee Lynch to send him raiding clear on the right in a quick counter attack. Gabriel Sava saved at the near post but the tame shot was never goal-bound.
Rovers levelled it 1-1 in the 46th minute and again Liam Buchahan -- hungry all night -- was involved. First his shot from the right unluckily cannoned off the far upright with Sava beaten but he finished Lee Lynch's return cross with a simple tap-in.
The RTE replay showed the linesman called it 100% correctly. But Drogheda protested an offside call to vehemently that Declan O'Brien got his second yellow of the night and left Drogheda with ten men for 44 minutes.
Rovers might have (undeservedly) 'stole' the match in the 80th minute but the tenacity of substitute Pascal Millien saw him get a poor contact on the ball which then for another Sligo sub, John Dillon. His well placed shot had Gabriel Sava beaten but sneaked outside the upright.
It was to be Drogheda who 'stole' it, right at the death. They went 2-1 ahead when Brian Gannon shot from distance in the 89th minute and ensured European football for Co Louth next season. Ironically, Rovers won the League title with an 89th winner in the Showgrounds just six days ago.
Night for Mayo
Sava, in the Drogheda goals, earned his spurs once more when he saved from Lee Lynch as time ticked away, after Ross Gaynor had set up Rafael Cretaro, who missed the opportunity.
Rovers conclude their wonderful ad classy League campaign next Friday night when they meet outgoing champions Shamrock Rovers in an all-ticket game in the Showgrounds. Fittingly, it will be live on RTE. Sligo have now played 29 games, won 17, drawn ten, lost two, scored 53 goals and conceded just 21.
Incidentally, it was a great night for Mayo as no less than three county men togged out for the two top teams in the Airtricity League -- David Cawley and Marty Owens for Sligo and former GAA Minor star Michael Schlingermann was on the Drogheda subs bench.Drogheda United:
Gabriel Sava, Stephen Quigley, Alan McNally, Alan Byrne, Philip Hand, Sean Brennan, Brian Gannon, Eric Foley (John Sullivan 72), Ryan Brennan, Peter Hynes, Declan O'Brien. Subs used: Tiernan Mulvenna for Hynes 65th minute and John Sullivan for Foley 72nd minute. Subs not used: Michael Schlingermann, Cathal Brady, Jason Marks, Johnny Breen.Sligo Rovers:
Richard Brush, Jeff Henderson (Marty Owens 77), Gavin Peers, Jason McGuinness, Ross Gaynor; Rafael Cretaro, Joseph N'Do, David Cawley, Lee Lynch, Ryan Connolly; Liam Buchanan (Pascal Millien 77). Subs used: John Dillon for Cawley 66th minute, Marty Owens for Henderson 77th minute, Paschal Millien for Liam Buchanan, also 77th minute. Subs not used: Gary Rogers, Jake Dykes.Referee: