Tuesday 24 October 2017

Blinkhorn hits brace in Sligo's seaside stroll


Ruaidhri O'Connor

Ruaidhri O'Connor

WHAT better way to spend your Friday night in the sunshine than getting your work done early and having a pleasant stroll by the seaside.

Sligo Rovers clearly had fun in the sun in mind as they clinically dispatched Bray Wanderers within nine minutes at the Carlisle Grounds, pushing their way into second place in the Premier League table in the process.

Shamrock Rovers can go above them with a win over St Patrick's Athletic tomorrow, but after their turbulent week, the Hoops will need to improve on their recent form to match a Bit O'Red side who are playing with verve and menace while not leaking goals.

Matthew Blinkhorn was the man of the hour, notching two goals in the opening stages to take the pressure off and Eoin Doyle finished Bray off with a headed third late on.

Sligo have now gone 540 minutes without conceding a league goal and their defence is the meanest in the league.

After the opening flurry, it was all tricks, keep-ball and good football from the north westerners as they extended their unbeaten run to five games. The bottom two are next up for the second-placed side and, in this form, they should breeze through before meeting St Pat's on July 23.

It's championship form from a team who failed to really ignite in the first half of the season, but are finding their feet nicely now.

Last week's win over the champions appears to have galvanised them and the midweek comeback win over Shelbourne in the EA Sports Cup was a boost.

Joseph Ndo and Richie Ryan are controlling things in midfield and having Blinkhorn back in the side is obviously helping too.

The English striker missed the start of the season with a back injury and his only strike this season came in a shock 2-1 defeat to UCD in April.

Last night he trebled his total, opening the scoring within three minutes.

Raffaele Cretaro sent Alan Keane down the right and his cross left Blinkhorn with plenty to do, but the former Blackpool striker controlled the ball with his chest and beat Matt Gregg from 10 yards.

The Seagulls' good form has come to a shuddering halt in recent weeks and this was their fourth defeat in a row.

After conceding five at home to Dundalk on Tuesday, the home faithful must have feared the worst when Blinkhorn doubled his tally on nine minutes after a lovely move.

Alan Kirby had just missed a one-on-one after a mistake from Derek Prendergast when Ndo won the ball in midfield and charged forward.


He played a neat one-two with Keane and crossed low for Blinkhorn, who made no mistake with the near-post finish.

Game over with only nine minutes gone as Sligo's football kept a disappointing Bray at arm's length.

The visitors created very little, but then they didn't really need to. Conor Murphy mustered Wanderers' first proper shot on target on 69 minutes, but goalkeeper Brendan Clarke wasn't unduly troubled as the game meandered towards a close.

Ndo clearly thought it could do with a flourishing finish, however, and the former Cameroon international burst into the box and cut a neat cross back for Doyle whose glancing header gave Gregg no chance.

Clarke had to make a double save from Dean Zambra late on, but it was all Bray could muster in a game that Sligo closed out comfortably.

BRAY WANDERERS -- Gregg; S O'Connor, Mitchell, Prendergast, Massey; Doyle (McGuinness 71), Dempsey, D O'Connor (O'Neill 59), Shields, Zambra; Murphy (Mulroy 71).

SLIGO ROVERS -- Clarke; Keane, McGuinness, Peers, Greene; Ndo,Ryan; Cretaro (Horgan 81), Kirby (Ventre 73), Doyle; Blinkhorn (Dillon 67).

REF -- A Kelly (Cork).

Irish Independent

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