Drogheda United consigned Sligo Rovers to their first defeat of the season when they fashioned a well deserved 2-0 win in the first leg of the Setanta Sports Cup semi-final at Hunky Dorys Park last Tuesday.
First half goals by Gary O'Neill and David Cassidy brought the Bit O'Red's ten game unbeaten run to an end and gave the Drogs a commanding lead to take to the Showgrounds for last night's second leg tie.
Rovers boss, Ian Baraclough, left out Evan McMillan, Ross Gaynor, Lee Lynch and Raffaele Cretaro from his starting line-up and the restructured side struggled to contain a Drogheda team which clearly relished the challenge of ending the Westerners' winning sequence.
Even Rovers top scorer, Anthony Elding, seemed to be out of sorts as he squandered a couple of excellent chances on a night when he celebrated his 31st birthday.
Drogheda, who won the last two meetings between the sides, were the more composed outfit for long stretches of the game and might well have earned an even more convincing win.
That said, Rovers had some early chances which might have changed the course of the game.
Aaron Greene was desperately unlucky with a powerful 20 yard drive which crashed against the upright and then Danny Ventre had a speculative effort booted away by Gabriel Sava.
Rovers created an even better chance in the 22nd minute when Greene's inviting cross picked out Elding at the far post but the striker headed wide when it looked easier to score.
Drogheda exacted the ultimate punishment just two minutes later, pouncing for the opening goal.
A long throw by Alan Byrne was headed clear by Gavin Peers but O'Neill reacted brilliantly, directing a spectacular overhead kick to the roof of the net.
Rovers were still coming to terms with that setback when Droghed struck again in the 35th minute.
On this occasion, a long clearance from Sava caught Rovers off guard. Gavin Brennan touched the ball on and Cassidy executed a great finish, lobbing over the stranded Gary Rogers.
Rovers stepped up a gear in the second half without creating any real chances, although Elding should have done better than head straight at Sava from a Pascal Millien corner in the 72nd minute.
At the other end, Drogheda missed a glorious chance for a third goal when Ryan Brennan headed wide of the target from Brian Gannon's cross
DROGHEDA UNITED: Sava, Gannon, Byrne, Prendergast, Grimes, R Brennan, O'Connor, Cassidy, G Brennan, O'Brien, O'Neill. Subs: Rush for O'Brien (81 mins), McNally for Byrne (87 mins)
SLIGO ROVERS: Rogers ,Keane, Peers, Henderson, Davoren, Djilali, Cawley, Ventre, Greene, Connolly, Elding. Subs: Millien for Djilali (64 mins), Lynch for Connolly (72 mins), McMillan for Peers (90 mins)
Referee: M Courtney