Sunday 22 October 2017

Driven Buckley hungry for more

Saints boss rues missed chance to slay title rivals Sligo after slick display

Conor Kenna in action against Sligo's David McMillan
Conor Kenna in action against Sligo's David McMillan

St Patrick's Athletic remain four points clear at the top of the Airtricity League, but boss Liam Buckley wanted a win in Sligo yesterday.

The league leaders were in front from the 17th minute after Anto Flood capitalised on a mistake by Rovers centre-back Evan McMillan to open the scoring.

McMillan redeemed himself by flicking home an equaliser from close range in the 82nd minute, and Buckley felt his side missed the opportunity to put real distance between his side and the reigning champions.

He said: "We came to Sligo to try and win the game. We are happy to take a point, but it is disappointing when you concede late.

"I thought we played very well. We were missing a few players, but the lads worked their socks off."

The point was good enough to see Sligo jump from fourth to second in the table, overtaking Derry City and Dundalk on score difference.

CHALLENGE

But the result probably best suited an in-form Shamrock Rovers side, who are now just five points off the chasing pack and on the verge of mounting a late challenge.

Bit O'Red boss Ian Baraclough felt his side had done enough to win. "I think we had the greater number of chances and we put a number of balls into their box. I think (Pat's 'keeper) Brendan Clarke was busier than Gary Rogers."

Sligo changed their system around for the tie, with David McMillan and Anthony Elding forming a new partnership up front.

St Pat's were minus Killian Brennan, John Russell and Kenny Browne, and started Flood as a lone striker.

It proved effective, with Flood putting pressure on the home side high up the field from the start, backed up by the excellent Greg Bolger.

Flood's selfless running eventually paid off after an error-ridden opening from both sides, when the striker got in behind the Rovers defence after Evan McMillan had failed to deal with a long ball forward, and he stroked the ball past Rogers.

At the other end, David McMillan was operating a shoot-on-sight policy for the home side, but the closest they came to levelling matters was when David Cawley headed Lee Lynch's cross straight at Clarke from close range midway through the first half.

Elding also had an opportunity as the hosts improved before the break, but he fluffed his lines in front of goal after some great attacking play from Iarfhlaith Davoren on the left.

Rovers continued to press at the start of the second half and won a succession of corners, with St Pat's Ian Bermingham and Chris Forrester picking up knocks as the Saints defended resolutely.

Bolger forced a decent save out of Rogers after latching onto another error in the Rovers defence, though he may have been better off teeing up substitute Jake Kelly, who was unmarked alongside him.

At the other end, Clarke twice turned efforts from Gavin Peers around the post, while Davoren's pile-driver from the edge of the box also failed to get past the shot-stopper.

There was little he could do about the equaliser, however, as McMillan showed great technique to get the ball over the line after Kieran Djilali's cross was directed back across goal and into his path by Seamus Conneely and Peers.

Rovers' fans urged their team forward in search of a winner, particularly after Pat's centre-back Conor Kenna had to get treatment on a head injury.

But it was the visitors that went closest to nicking it in the six minutes of injury-time, as Bolger's superbly executed volley from the edge of the box narrowly missed the target.

Sligo – Rogers, Keane, Peers, E McMillan, Davoren, Lynch (Martin 76), Conneely, Ndo (Djilali 68), Cawley, D McMillan, Elding.

St Pat's – Clarke, O'Brien, Kenna, Price, Bermingham, Byrne (Gannon 76), McFaul, Maher, Bolger, Forrester (Kelly 61), Flood (Fagan 87).

Ref – T Connolly

Irish Independent

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