Rovers' relegation worries continue with Shams defeat
Shamrock Rovers 2 Sligo Rovers 0
Sligo Rovers were plunged further towards the relegation mire last Friday night as second half goals from Dylan Watts and substitute Gary Shaw saw Shamrock Rovers overcome the Bit O'Red at Tallaght Stadium.
The result, paired with Limerick's surprise win over Waterford means the Shannonsiders, who sit in the relegation play-off position, narrowed the gap between themselves and Rovers to just two points.
Ger Lyttle's men finished this game with ten men after Seamus Sharkey was dismissed late on having seen his second yellow of the night eight minutes from time.
Mitchell Beeney was certainly the busier of the two goalkeepers throughout. Aaron Greene, who was on the score sheet the last time Rovers beat Shams in Tallaght almost five years ago, tested the resolve of the Sligo defence early on.
But the imposing Dan Carr was crowded out by a host of Rovers defenders as he tried to hook Greene's cross to the far post towards goal. Rovers almost hit the lead on 16 minutes, before Beeney was called into action.
Stand-in right full Jack Keaney playing a clever one-two with Lee Lynch. The Donegal man found himself with ample time and space to pick out David Cawley whose first time strike shook Alan Mannus' crossbar.
Eight minutes later, Beeney had to see wide, Joel Coulstrain's volley at goal.
Greene, who spent two spells at the Showgrounds, was continuing to cause Regan Donelon problems on the Rovers left.
His ball from wide again met by Carr who was once more harried into snatching at the ball in his attempt to fire it goalward. Beeney comfortable in claiming.
Rovers enjoyed a purple patch of their own late in the opening 45 but couldn't capitalise. John Mahon not helped by Sharkey who seemed to climb on his team mate's back as the Collooney man attempted to nod Rhys McCabe's corner past Mannus.
Rovers had won both of their previous two visits to Dublin after going two-and-a-half years without victory in the capital.
But the signs were there throughout the second half that they were going to struggle to make it a hat-trick.
The loose Greene was allowed ghost in and was just inches off Ronan Finn's drilled free-kick from the right as Rovers lived dangerously.
The away side brought his one and only real save of note from Mannus on 54.
McCabe's sumptuous through ball allowing Mikey Drennan to run into space. But Drennan's hammered strike towards the top corner was fisted away by the former Northern Ireland international.
Watched on from the Tallaght stands by another former northern international, current Republic of Ireland manager Martin O'Neill, Shams gradually began to turn the screw.
Finn expertly trapped the ball before taking a touch past a Rovers man. Mahon's bravery the only thing stopping Finn's effort from hitting the target as the young defender got a touch to the ball, slowly diverting it away from goal with Beeney stranded.
Shams inevitably took the lead on 66. Finn managed to get around Keaney only to see Beeney push his cross out the opposite side. Coulstrain was on hand to deliver the ball back into the danger zone only for Carr to miss-kick.
The ball finally falling to Watts who although Beeney got a hand to his leathered effort, was not be left disappointed as his shot found its way past the Rovers keeper for Watts' first goal for the Tallght men.
It was all Shams from here on in.
Donelon's weak clearance landed at the foot of Sam Bone who arrowed his blast at goal narrowly past the post with Stephen Bradley's charges looking to kill the game.
Things went from bad to worse for the Bit O'Red eight minutes from time. A late lunge on Aaron Bolger saw Sharkey suffer the wrath of referee Rob Rodgers. Beeney on hand to pull off a really impressive stop to keep out Brandon Kavanagh's resulting set-piece.
With news that Limerick had beaten third place Waterford, things got even better for the Europe chasing Hoops shortly after.
Watts' initial attempt was spilled into the path of Shaw, who only nine minutes on the pitch, was left with a simple finish past Beeney for his second in as many games.
Down a man, Rovers did push forward in numbers late on but to no avail. The Bit O'Red now sitting perilously close to the drop zone with a game in hand over the bottom two.
Shamrock Rovers: Alan Mannus; Sam Bone, Lee Grace, Roberto Lopes, Ally Gilchrist; Greg Bolger (Aaron Bolger 80), Ronan Finn; Dylan Watts; Joel Coustrain, Aaron Greene (Gary Shaw 77); Dan Carr (Brandon Kavanagh 70).
Sligo Rovers: Mitchell Beeney; Jack Keaney, John Mahon, Seamus Sharkey, Regan Donelon; Rhys McCabe, David Cawley; Kris Twardek (Liam Kerrigan 65), Lee Lynch, Caolan McAleer (Darren Collins 77); Mikey Drennan (Patrick McClean 85).
Referee: Rob Rogers.