Friday 23 March 2018

Fagan class denies Sligo first victory

St Pat's Ath 1 Sligo Rovers 1

Christy Fagan in action against John Russell (SPORTSFILE)
Christy Fagan in action against John Russell (SPORTSFILE)
John Russell in action against Graham Kelly, left, and Billy Dennehy (SPORTSFILE)
David Cawley in action against John Russell (SPORTSFILE)
Daniel McDonnell

Daniel McDonnell

When Sligo Rovers came away from Inchicore in October with a win that preserved their Premier Division status, the intention was to draw a line under a disastrous campaign and build towards the future.

They arrived back at Richmond Park last night with a different manager and almost a brand new team but results under Dave Robertson have raised fears that they could be involved in another stressful battle with the drop this year.

The performance here suggested otherwise yet they are still waiting for a first competitive victory under the Englishman despite outperforming a Saints group that is also coming to terms with a winter of upheaval. On this evidence, Liam Buckley has a lot of work to do if they are to challenge the front-runners. Christy Fagan's second-half leveller, his fifth of the season, prevented the Dubliners from suffering a third home defeat this season.

The Bit O'Red were full value for their half-time lead as the hosts had plenty of the ball without doing very much with it. They always looked susceptible to a Sligo counter-attack with the union between striker Jaanai Gordon and the creative midfielder Kieran Sadlier posing problems for the hosts.

Gordon moved to West Ham for big money as a teenager - a figure of £3.5m was reported in the English media - and he has moved to Ireland on loan to be reunited with Robertson who had coached him in the youth team set-up at Peterborough.

He's yet to get off the mark in his temporary abode and squandered two chances to do so with Brendan Clarke pushing away his right-footer after Saints attacker Christy Fagan made a mess of a backpass and then getting down to push away the 20-year-old's close-range header following good work from Jimmy Keohane and Sadlier.

Robertson's side have impressed some observers, particularly in their scoreless draw with Cork City, and a return of just two goals from their opening six matches explains their plight.

But they did add to that tally in the 41st minute when Sadlier dusted himself down after being fouled to drill a free goalwards with defender Gary Boylan on hand to sweep home a weak parry from Clarke. Boylan was the only member of the Sligo starting XI that featured in last October's triumph.


Clarke might have done better but was still in credit by the hour mark with a double stop from Keohane preventing the away side from securing an insurance goal.

And his efforts were duly rewarded as a lengthy spell of Saints passing culminated with an Ian Bermingham cross that was dispatched by Fagan; he rose above Boylan to find enough power to beat a frustrated Micheal Schlingermann.

That allowed the locals to find their voice and a brief spell of pressure followed. However, it was Sligo that came closest to bagging a decider with Keohane drawing a last-ditch block from Darren Dennehy. On this evidence, Robertson's troops will not be hanging around the bottom of the table for too long.

ST PAT'S ATH - Clarke, O'Brien (Barker 50), D Dennehy, McEleney, Bermingham; Treacy (Verdon 86); Timlin, Kelly (Byrne 75), Cawley, B Dennehy; Fagan.

SLIGO ROVERS - Schlingermann, Adebayo-Rowling, Leahy, Boylan, Donelon; Roddan, Russell (Richards 70); Keohane, Sadlier (Place 88), Martin; Gordon (Cretaro 70).

Ref - N Doyle (Dublin)

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