Monday 23 April 2018

Russell's rocket is the highlight

Sligo Rovers entered their mid-season sojourn with a 2-2- draw against northwest neighbours Derry City at the Showgrounds last Friday night.

Sligo Rovers entered their mid-season sojourn with a 2-2- draw against northwest neighbours Derry City at the Showgrounds last Friday night.

Afterwards, there was more to ponder than reflect positively on as Ian Baraclough's injury ravaged squad failed to get back to winning ways after three straight defeats.

The result did little to ease the frustration among Rovers fans, or help Rovers peg back the teams above them in the SSE Airtricity Premier League.

A stunning John Russell opener put Rovers ahead, but sloppy defending cost them dearly.

Derry scored twice from corner kicks to change the complexion of the match, before Danny Ledwith restored parity prior to the interval.

There were no further goals in the second-half, despite some late, late chances for both sides.

Rovers misery was compounded when substitute Eric Odhiambo, who had only been on the pitch four minutes, was sent off by referee Tomas Connolly for a high challenge on Cliff Byrne.

Indeed, Rovers bench had a bare look, with just two outfield players-Odhiambo and Sean Maguire and goalkeeper Richard Brush named as substitutes.

Baraclough was without Joseph Ndo, Kieran Dijilali, Gavin Peers, Jeff Henderson and Aaron Greene.

He made three changes from the side dumped out of the FAI Cup by Dundalk the previous week.

Raffael Cretaro made his first start after a lengthy lay-off, with David Cawley returning from suspension and Seamus Conneely also lining out at right back.

Evan McMillan and Kalen Spillane were in the centre of defence, with Ross Gaynor at left back.

Cretaro, Cawley, Paul O'Connor and Danny Ledwith were across mid-field, with John Russell playing just behind Danny North in attack.

Rovers enjoyed a relatively good start.

They forced two early corners, which came to nothing, before Patrick McEleney tested goalkeeper Gary Rogers with a low strike, which the 'keeper spilled and grabbed at the second attempt.

Russell's screamer arrived in the 16th minute.

Derry, who had posted two wins over the Bit O'Red already this season, lost possession in midfield and Russell strode forward to unleash an unstoppable shot from 30 yards, giving Candystripes 'keeper Gerard Doherty no chance as it whistled past his left hand and into the top corner.

Derry responded with two corners and Rovers lead didn't last too long.

They looked vulnerable from set pieces from the off and so it proved as Barry McNamee's delivery wasn't cleared from the second touch. Central defender Ryan McBride was brave as he looped a header over the despairing Rogers, picking up an injury in the process.

The game was now completely turned around as a rejuvenated Derry took the initiative, led by the impressive Michael Duffy.

They hit the front on 28 minutes and again Rovers were the authors of their own downfall.

This time, Rogers was caught out as he came to try to claim a McNamee corner. The ball fell to McBride in a crowded area and he scrambled it in.

The goal feast was not over, however.

It continued ten minutes from the break when North crossed from the right and Danny Ledwith was on the end of it to cut in on his left foot to send a right foot shot past Doherty.

Rogers was then called upon to make an excellent save from Mark Timlin a minute from the half-time whistle.

Rovers had a chance to regain the lead 5 minutes into the second-half, but Evan McMillan failed to get the necessary direction on the end of a Danny North free-kick .

On the hour mark, Ledwith's corner caused all sorts of panic in the Derry area, but O'Connor couldn't get a vital touch and the deadlock remained.

Derry had an opportunity to unlock it again in the 65th minute.

McMillan fouled Rory Pattterson as he skipped by him on the City left. From the resultant free-kick on the edge of the area, Patrick McEleney's header was only narrowly wide.

Odhiambo replaced O'Connor in the 66th minute, but he was back in the dressing room within 4 minutes for his high challenge on Byrne.

Byrne recovered to send a clever back-heel flick into the side netting in the 75th minute.

Rogers produced an excellent stop to thwart Patterson from a stinging volley moments later, despite claims from the home side that the Derry striker had taken the ball down with his hand in the build-up.

There was still time for two golden opportunities before the finish.

The first came in the 90th minute and fell to Derry's Barry McNamee. He headed wide, however, after substitute Nathan Boyle had picked him out after a good run.

Two minutes later, the lively Russell had a chance to snatch all three points when he raided on the right from a pass from substitute Maguire.

Russell's trickery got him away from Ryan McBride, but from a difficult angle he shot across the face of goal-and wide of the far post.

Thus, Rovers had to settle for the draw and headed into the 2 week break, still 17 points behind leaders Dundalk and 11 adrift of third placed St Pat's.

Sligo Rovers: Rogers, Connelly, McMillan, Spillane, Gaynor, Cretaro, Cawley, O'Connor, Russell, Ledwith, North. Subs - Odhiambo for O'Connor (66 mins), Maguire for North (85 mins). Booked - North (36 mins), McMillan (65). Odhiambo red carded 70 minutes.

Derry City: Doherty, Molloy, Byrne, McBride, Barry, McEleney, Ventre, McNamee, Duffy, Timlin, Patterson. Subs-Curran for Timlin (70 mins), Boyle for Patterson (87 mins). Booked - Ventre (39 mins), Patterson (72 mins).

Referee: Tomas Connolly (Dublin).

Sligo Champion