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Keane demands a bit o' character

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Billy Dennehy, Shamrock Rovers pictured in action against Alan Keane of Sligo Rovers, scored a wonder-strike last night

Billy Dennehy, Shamrock Rovers pictured in action against Alan Keane of Sligo Rovers, scored a wonder-strike last night

Billy Dennehy, Shamrock Rovers pictured in action against Alan Keane of Sligo Rovers, scored a wonder-strike last night

THEY have been knocked off their perch for the first time in a year, and Sligo Rovers stalwart Alan Keane admits that the reigning league champions now face a stern test of character to see if they can emerge from an early-season blip.

Sligo fans knew that the stunning form which Ian Baraclough's side served up in the opening weeks of the season – 10 games and 10 wins in all competitions – could not be sustained.

But neither did they expect that the side would go through a run like their current spell, as The Bit O' Red have managed just one win in the last five.

In that time they have been knocked out of the Setanta Cup and, having taken just two points from the last three league games, have lost top spot in the table. Sligo have also run into disciplinary problems with three red cards in as many games.

The derby between Sligo and Derry City is always an intriguing one, but there's added bite to today's game at the Showgrounds (5pm) as the Candystripes replaced Rovers as league leaders thanks to Friday's games. City came from behind to win at home to Limerick while Sligo lost a 1-0 lead to draw away to Shamrock Rovers.

 

Overtaken

"There is added pressure on us now for tonight's game as Derry have overtaken us at the top, but these are the games you want to play in as a footballer," says Keane, an ever-present in defence for Sligo this season.

"It's first against second, Derry v Sligo, in front of a packed Showgrounds with a lot at stake, and we know what a good side Derry are. Derry have only lost once this season, when we beat them on the opening day. But with a home crowd behind us and the potential we have to play better, it's something we are looking forward to.

"We need a reaction from our players to what's happened in the last few weeks and I think it is a test of our character, as individuals and as a team.

"Sometimes it can be easy when you're in a winning side and everything is going your way, but things have gone against us in the last few weeks.

"We've let in way too many goals and had a couple of men sent off and dropped points. At times like this, your true character comes to the fore. No one is suffering more than the players when we do badly, and it's only the players who can get ourselves out of this run now, so we will look to the Derry game to get things moving again," added Keane.

On balance, Friday's 1-1 draw away to Shamrock Rovers was a fair result as, although the Hoops needed a late goal from Karl Sheppard to nick a point, it was the Dublin club which had more possession and more chances.

With some more clinical finishing Trevor Croly's men could have been home and dry, instead of settling for a point after Sheppard's goal cancelled out a first-half strike from David Cawley.

"When we scored we panicked a bit and gave the ball away too easily, dropped further back and invited them onto us, we made it harder for ourselves with the way we played," says Keane, looking back to Friday's draw.

"If we'd had a bit more composure we'd have seen out the game and got the three points. Overall a 1-1 draw at Tallaght is never a bad result, but given that we were 1-0 up with five minutes to go, we have to be a bit disappointed."

Baraclough will have to revamp his side as main striker Elding, who has started in every league game this season, is suspended following his late red card for an off-the-ball offence on Friday. With Raff Cretaro, missing for the last three games, still an injury doubt, it will be a test of Sligo's reserves.

Derry, meanwhile, are looking for their eighth win in nine games. "I see every match we play as a big game," says Derry boss Declan Devine.

"You get the same number of points if you beat Sligo Rovers as we did when we beat Limerick on Friday so that's why every game is a big game.

"It's a top-of-the-table clash and it's a North West derby but nothing will be won or lost down there today but believe me, we are going there to try and win."


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