Thursday 30 March 2017

Peers keeps Sligo on trail of Blue Riband

Bohemians 0
Sligo Rovers 1

Gavin Peers, left, scores Sligo Rovers' winning goal from a corner in last night’s FAI Ford Cup semi-final against Bohemians.
Gavin Peers, left, scores Sligo Rovers' winning goal from a corner in last night’s FAI Ford Cup semi-final against Bohemians.

A shock, but not a fluke. Sligo Rovers deserved this victory, and another shot at FAI Cup glory after last year's heartbreak.

Gavin Peers' well-placed header 15 minutes from time secured a famous success for the Bit O'Red who, contrary to the norm, would have been disappointed to bring Bohemians back to the west for a Monday night replay given their dominance here.

The defender will particularly relish the opportunity to participate in the first final at the renovated Lansdowne Road; he was involved in an unfortunate piece of history when his error gifted Manchester United the opening goal at the Aviva Stadium back in August, when an Airtricity League XI was demolished.

Sligo's graduation to the Blue Riband decider should secure a healthy turnout for the occasion. Bohs can have little complaints about the outcome, producing a lethargic display for a game of such significance.

They had arrived into this game buoyed by the astonishing turnaround in the battle for the league with Shamrock Rovers, but it was Sligo that looked like the title contenders.

Operating in a 4-4-1-1, with John Russell roaming behind lone striker Matt Blinkhorn, Paul Cook's charges were tidier in possession and dominating the midfield exchanges with the industry of Richie Ryan and flamboyance of Joseph Ndo dovetailing, and Russell increasingly influential.

The only thing missing was assurance in the penalty area, with the theme for the half set early when Blinkhorn's deft chip sailed over Conor Powell into the path of Romauld Boco, who misjudged an ill advised lob with just Barry Murphy to beat.

Tested

Boco tested Murphy again, before a rare Bohs chance culminated with ex-Sligo man Raffaele Cretaro stinging the fingers of Ciaran Kelly, introduced here in place of John Gibson.

Powell blocked smartly from Russell in a crowded area as the visitors regained a foothold and, while Bohs were toiling, they bravely threw their bodies in the way of goal attempts.

Yet, the defenders had Murphy to thank just short of the interval when the in-form stopper produced a remarkable double save.

Bohs were recovering from the loss of Mark Rossiter to injury, with inexperienced Crumlin lad Roberto Lopez sent into battle.

The youngster was still finding his feet as Gary McCabe skipped away and unleashed a right footer that the diving Murphy pushed into the path of Blinkhorn. Alas, the striker's follow up was palmed away by the Gypsies keeper who brilliantly regained his balance.

Bohs did briefly threaten at the other end when Cretaro and Paul Keegan got their lines of communication mixed up from a dangerous Jason Byrne delivery. However, there was much for Pat Fenlon to ponder as he strode for the dressing room, fortunate to be level.

Sligo continued to press after the break, with Blinkhorn wasteful again following a purposeful Alan Keane dart forward, and Boco again unconvincing when presented with another opportunity.

They failed to really build on that momentum in a period where Bohs began to compete more effectively.

The decisive moment arrived as the game entered its 75th minute. Powell's tackle on Russell resulted in a second Sligo corner in succession. Ryan was the provider, and Peers expertly nipped into space, steering the ball to the far post. Bohs had the near post covered, but the Dubliner found the other side unattended.

While Fenlon had already played his full hand when he summoned Paddy Madden for Cretaro, the Sligo bench was called into duty with Cook bringing on three subs as the minutes ticked down. Kelly was booked for timewasting, and the home crowd cried foul when Blinkhorn hobbled off in the dying stages, with every second counting.

Bohs were going nowhere, though, with a series of hopeful punts in time added on yielding no return. They couldn't even register a shot to trouble Kelly, with the final seconds of this encounter taking place in the home side's territory.

Fitting on a night when the Phibsboro venue belonged to Sligo.

Bohemians -- Murphy, Rossiter (Lopez 33), Shelley, Oman, Powell; Brennan, Keegan, Cronin, McGlynn; Cretaro (Madden 73), Byrne (Quigley 52)

Sligo Rovers -- Kelly, Keane, Peers, Lauchlan, Davoren; Boco, Ryan, Ndo, McCabe (Doyle 84); Russell (Ventre 81); Blinkhorn (O'Grady 90)

Ref -- A Kelly (Cork)

Irish Independent

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