Greene brace takes Sligo to the summit
DROGHEDA Utd 0, SLIGO ROVERS 3
TOP of the table with five games to go -- Sligo Rovers boss Paul Cook would have bitten your hand off to be in this position at the start of the season.
Sure, Shamrock Rovers and Derry City have games in hand but, with their rivals' schedules filling up, the FAI Cup holders are now just seven games away from the Double.
This win was all about strength in depth. With injuries mounting, bodies tiring and squads stretched it's a numbers game at this stage of the season and Sligo won hands down, with Aaron Greene's first-half double killing the game before John Russell added the polish late on.
With Shamrock Rovers boss Michael O'Neill in attendance, this was also a chance for the visitors to lay down a title marker by going clear of the Hoops ahead of the Dubliners' clash with Bray tomorrow afternoon.
Both sides were forced into changes, but with a much deeper squad at his disposal, Cook's men absorbed the loss of Eoin Doyle and Jason McGuinness better than Drogheda coped with the absences of the likes of Lee Lynch and Gavin Brennan.
Sligo could bring the class of Raffaele Cretaro, Conor Powell and Alan Kirby off the bench.
They started with purpose, going ahead within two minutes of the opening whistle as Derek Foran laid Joseph Ndo's corner off to Greene and he powered a left-footed strike into the top corner from just inside the box.
Sligo took full control. Some of their touches were exquisite, with Richie Ryan, Ndo and Russell keeping the ball well and Gavin Peers and Matthew Blinkhorn going close to adding to their opener.
The travelling faithful didn't have to wait long for a second and it was former Bohemians winger Greene who doubled his tally. Blinkhorn brilliantly held his pass for the winger who arrived like a train down the left and powered a low strike past Stephen Trimble.
Mick Cooke's men attempted a rally before the break, with most of their threat coming from pacey right winger Shane Fitzgerald, who fired just wide from 25 yards, before having a penalty claim turned down.
The second half was comfortable for the visitors, with Ryan and Ndo testing Trimble before substitute Cretaro fed Russell and he squeezed the ball past the unfortunate 'keeper.
Only last-ditch defending -- Robbie Clarke's goal-line clearance denied Russell a second -- and a strange refereeing decision to rule a Cretaro effort out for handball in the build-up kept the total at three, but Sligo will be happy with their night's work.
Drogheda will be less so after Mark O'Brien's injury-time sending-off -- for something the fourth official Derek Tomney saw -- compounding their misery. At least they're safe.
At the top, it's over to the other Rovers tomorrow at Tallaght.
DROGHEDA UNITED -- Trimble; Gaul (Corcoran 69), Gannon, Rogers, Clarke; Fitzgerald (Melis 80), O'Brien, Quigley, McMahon, Hand; White (Dolan 69).
SLIGO ROVERS -- Clarke; Keane, Peers, Foran, Davoren (Powell 76); Ndo, Ventre (Kirby 84), Ryan, Russell, Greene; Blinkhorn (Cretaro 71).
REF -- P Sutton (Clare).