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brennan keeps HOOPS top


 Trevor Croly

Trevor Croly

Trevor Croly

WITH a winning side, a settled eleven and a consignment of goals being evenly spread throughout the side, the 2014 season is shaping up very nicely down Tallaght way as Shamrock Rovers made it three wins from three games with this 1-0 defeat of their old rivals Sligo Rovers.

While other clubs rely heavily - too heavily - on one man to deliver the goals, Rovers are sharing the burden as, by scoring what proved to be the winner just 15 minutes into the game, midfielder Ryan Brennan became the sixth Hoops player to score in the league this season, his first for the club.

From the occasional chaos and general frustration of the previous two league campaigns Rovers have been a model for consistency this term as boss Trevor Croly has now started with the same XI for the last three league games.

Sligo crave that stability as this defeat was another blow in an already-difficult season: not since August 2009 have Sligo lost three successive league games but they have indeed now lost three in a row, and while their manager Ian Baraclough, one of the coolest customers in the league, will not use words like 'panic' or 'crisis', a return of three points from four games is a concern.

But for Rovers, it's all smiles. "We were excellent going forward and had really good performances," said Rovers boss Croly (right).

"It was a good game, it felt like a good game and I think we needed that - there's been a few bad ones on TV.

"We're delighted to have beaten Sligo, it's good for us that there's that gap, but it's very early. Sligo had that fantastic run last year as we know and they didn't win the league, so it's a good gap and we're delighted with it but it's very early."

After three miserable efforts, in terms of entertainment, from the previous three live TV games this season this was a lot better, easier on the eye with more to enthuse about.

But the first half did hinge on two crucial incidents. On 14 minutes Rovers took the lead with Brennan's debut goal for the club.

The build-up had a touch of controversy about it as Sligo striker Danny North went down in the box under pressure from Jason McGuinness but the home crowd felt that North went to ground a little too easy and Hoops captain Conor Kenna - North's former team-mate at St Pats - said as much as the pair engaged in a bout of pushing.

From that incident Simon Madden's long ball fell nicely for Ciaran Kilduff, and his cross landed perfectly for the unmarked Brennan who just stroked the ball home.Eight minutes before the break Sligo had their best chance to equalise.

As Sligo's Aaron Greene took a shot on goal, Hoops keeper Barry Murphy injured himself while making the save as he slid against the post, while he was on the ground Eric Odihambo had a clear sight at goal but his shot hit the crossbar and went away to safety, and after a few minutes of medical care Murphy, who appeared to be briefly out cold, was able to continue.

Murphy's opposite number Gary Rogers was by far the busier keeper, named as man of the match by Rovers boss Croly as Sligo needed a string of saves from the Meath native to keep them in the game in the second half.

On 59 minutes Rogers denied Kilduff after he was set up by the impressive Brennan and in the 72nd minute Rogers pulled off a top-class save to keep out a Brennan header.

Sligo almost nicked a goal back on 74 minutes when Eric Odihambo's shot was kept out by Murphy and from the rebound, North's effort was blocked by a team-mate.

Kilduff missed the target in the final minute when he should really have made it 2-0 but overall there was nothing to complain about from the Hoops, who are away to Cork City in a top of the table clash next week.