Thursday 31 July 2014

Vital points on a notable night

Published 01/10/2013|05:40

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Iarfhlaith Davoren is congratulated by team mates after scoring Rovers second goal against Shels at the Showgrounds last Friday.

On a night of several noteworthy landmarks at the Showgrounds last Friday, the most precious statistic of all was the 2-0 scoreline which enabled Sligo Rovers leapfrog Dundalk and move to second place in the Airtricity League table.

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On a night of several noteworthy landmarks at the Showgrounds last Friday, the most precious statistic of all was the 2-0 scoreline which enabled Sligo Rovers leapfrog Dundalk and move to second place in the Airtricity League table.

First half goals from unlikely sources, Danny Ventre and Iarfhlaith Davoren, secured three priceless points which kept Rovers in the hunt for the coveted title.

The occasion was given further significance by Raffaele Cretaro's 388th appearance for the Bit O'Red, making him second only to the legendary Tony Fagan in the list of all time appearances for the club.

And it was a notable night too for Gary Rogers who kept his 24th clean sheet of the season.

His outstanding form was further underlined by another interesting fact. Rovers shut-out against Shels meant they had gone 588 minutes without conceding a goal at the Showgrounds - a new club record.

All of this would have counted for little, however, if Rovers hadn't looked after the most important business of the night - the pursuit of valuable points in the race for the title.

St. Pat's victory over Bray the previous night meant that the Bit O'Red had to win to keep their slim hopes of catching the Dublin club alive.

Indeed, a spirited Shels side might well have snatched something from the game but for three exceptional saves by the in-form Rogers.

It really would have been a disaster if Rovers had allowed the visitors back into contention because they were overwhelmingly superior for most of the ninety minutes and would not have been flattered by a far more convincing winning margin.

With Cretaro and Kieran Djilali operating to great effect on the flanks and Alan Keane, voted man of the match for the second home game in a row, and Davoren pushing up from the full-back berths at every opportunity, Shels were on the back foot right from the start. The Bit O'Red carved out their first chance after just 5 minutes as Davoren and Cretaro combined to release Keane who forced Lee Murphy to a smart save with a well struck effort.

The energetic Lee Lynch almost got on the end of Danny North's header in a crowded goalmouth as the pressure intensified and then Cretaro produced a turn of blistering pace before firing across goal with North just unable to make contact at the far post.

Rovers engineered another eye-catching move in the 16th minute. This time, Davoren was the architect, switching the play brilliantly from left to right to release Cretaro. His measured cross picked out Lynch but the midfielder couldn't make clean contact and the chance was lost.

The onslaught finally brought the breakthrough in the 24th minute. Cretaro was fouled on the right hand side of the area and Djilali's teasing free kick was met on the run by Ventre who dispatched a brave header low to the net. Rovers continued to push forward in search of a second goal and it looked as if their efforts were rewarded when the inrushing Keane finished Cretaro's cross to the net in the 41st minute. However, referee, Anthony Buttimer, spotted an infringement and disallowed the goal.

Just two minutes later, good approach play by Djilali and Lynch set up Davoren who unleashed a stunning drive from 25 yards which took a slight deflection as it flew past Murphy.

It was only Davoren's second goal for the club - and his first was also against Shels, in the 2011 FAI Cup final.

Rovers were not quite as dominant in the second half, although Murphy was obliged to produce good saves to deny Keane and substitute, David McMillan. And the unsparing Gavin Peers was unlucky not to mark another outstanding performance with a goal. He did well to dig out a shot in a crowded goalmouth from Djilai's corner but could only watch in despair as his effort rebounded off the upright.

At the other end, Lee Murtagh and Brian Gannon were denied by the excellent Rogers while Derek Doyle went close with a neat lob over the keeper's head.

Shels battled away right to the end but were denied even a late consolation when Rogers once again came to Rovers rescue, brilliantly tipping over a header from Carl Walsh deep into injury time.

Sligo Champion

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