Frustrated Coleman slams players as wasteful Sligo fail to take chances
Banga 0 Sligo Rovers 0
Sligo Rovers manager John Coleman criticised his team's display last night after they returned home from Lithuania with a draw.
While his assessment seems harsh, especially given how underwhelming Sligo's European results have been in recent years, the reality is this was an opportunity lost.
Dominant throughout and the creator of the game's best chances, Sligo failed to punish their hosts, regretting Danny North and Seamus Conneely's wastefulness in front of goal.
And yet the tie is tipped in their favour with the second leg to come next week in The Showgrounds.
"I'm not particularly happy as I know that we can play better," said Coleman. "The work rate was there but the rest was missing.
"We were just too loose in possession for a start. Basically, there was no spark there, although we created chances.
"So we must improve and I know we have the quality in the team to do so. It's up to us to keep plugging away, and if we can be more dynamic in the second leg and believe we can win then we should be okay.
"Put it this way, now that we have got a draw in Lithuania, I don't want this European adventure to end here. We must keep our foot on the gas."
They certainly had their foot on the pedal here from early on, with North getting the first chance of the game, one that was comfortably saved by Banga goalkeeper Sarunas Jurevicius.
Half an hour later, though, it was the Sligo 'keeper who had to be at his best when Gary Rogers was put under pressure by Sergei Shevchuk's cross.
Proving a thorn in the Bit O'Red side, Shevchuk again crossed from the left for Evaldas Grigaitis, who shot wildly over.
Sligo survived another scare when Evan McMillan brilliantly cut out Grigaitis' threatening cross.
In a game of few chances, Rafael Cretaro almost caught Jurevicius out with a terrific effort from 25 yards but the goalkeeper pulled off an equally great save.
Paul O'Conor and North both went close shortly after the restart but Coleman's side lacked composure in front of goal.
John Russell almost snatched a late victory for the visitors but he couldn't direct his header on target after a brilliant Kieran Djilali cross. So Banga survived.
"We're disappointed," said Cretaro afterwards, "We should have won. I'm not going to be disrespectful and say they're a bad side, but we have the quality here to win against a side which probably wouldn't be of the same calibre as us. To not get an away goal is a massive thing in Europe because they could sneak a set-piece or even profit from a mistake at our place.
Banga: Jurevicius; Arlauskis, Epifanov, Karkusiv, Urbaitis; Grigaitis, Butkus, Zagurskas (Tsallagov 78), Khablov; Shevchuk, Staponka.
Sligo Rovers: Rogers; Keane (Ledwith 89); Conneely, McMillan, Gaynor; O'Conor, Cawley, Russell; Cretaro (Greene 74), North, Djilali. Ref – S Baliyan (Armenia)