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Monday 21 April 2014

Elding's on target at the Brandywell

A perfect start for Champions

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Sligo Rovers striker, Anthony Elding, made the perfect start to the Airtricity League campaign as he pounced for the only goal of the game against Derry City at the Brandywell last Friday

The former Grimsby Town hit man tapped in from close range in the 31st minute after a breathtaking Rovers move unhinged the Derry backline.

David Cawley, who was superb throughout, sliced a penetrating pass through to Raffaele Cretaro and the Tubbercurry man delivered an inch-perfect cross low across the goalmouth for Elding to apply an easy finish.

The goal was no more than the defending Champions deserved after taking a firm grip on the exchanges right from the start.

Such was their dominance that they really should have had more than goal goal to show for all their possession.

However, Derry hung in there with admirable conviction and caused Rovers some anxious moments in a nervous finish.

They had claims for a penalty turned down late on and were also out of luck when a Michael Rafter header was cleared off the line by the vigilant Evan McMillan deep into injury time.

Overall, though, Rovers were clearly the better side, even if the difficult conditions - an uneven pitch and a near galeforce wind - at times conspired to thwart their passing game.

With Joseph Ndo as sharp and as fit as ever, and Cawley and the tireless Seamus Conneely getting through trojan work at midfield, Rovers made most of the early running.

Elding was a pivotal figure, operating to great effect in the air and on the ground, and Rovers might have prospered even more emphatically if they'd been able to get support up around him more frequently.

A swirling wind made it a hazardous night for defenders and goalkeepers - fact underline at either side of the pitch in the opening minutes.

A free from Ross Gaynor caused panic in the Derry defence, with 'keeper, Ger Doherty, relieved to see the ball drifting narrowly wide of his upright while at the other end, Gary Rogers was forced into an unconvincing punched clearance from Barry McNamee's free

As Rovers stepped up the pace, forcing a succession of unproductive corners, the trend of the game swung very much in favour of the Bit O' Red

And their relentless probing finally brought the breakthrough with Elding's 31s minute strike.

Strangely, Rovers play became a bit ragged after the scored and Derry enjoyed their best spell of the half in the minutes leading up to half time.

Normal service was resumed in the early stages of the second period, however, as Rovers reasserted their authority.

The came desperately close to increasing their lead in the 54th minute when Gavin Peers connected with Gaynor's teasing corner kick only to see his powerful header narrowly miss the target.

By this stage, Derry were relying on the quick counter-attack to trouble Rovers and the tactic nearly paid off in the 63rd minute.

A long hopeful ball over the top caught the Rovers defence out of position but Mark Griffin was unable to make the most of the opportunity, lobbing a hurried effort well wide of the target. Still, it served to inject some renewed urgency into Derry's effort.

And they nearly made Rovers pay for some sloppy play after 75 minutes, as Rafter charged into the area, only to be denied by the advancing Rogers. The home fans roared for a penalty but referee, Neil Doyle, awarded a corner.

Almost immediately, Rovers broke upfield and the unsparing Cawley was out of luck with a crisply struck 20 yard effort which crashed against the crossbar. The inrushing Elding was only inches away from connecting with the rebound and the chance was lost.

In a tense finish, Ryan Curran headed straight at Rogers and Rafter had an effort hacked away by McMillan.

Sligo Rovers held on, however, to claim a hard-earned but well deserved victory.

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