North double points Sligo in right direction
Drogheda United 1 Sligo Rovers 3
If the League of Ireland title is to travel north by north-west by the end of October then nights like this will have played their part.
Against a Drogheda United side who started the evening in third place, Sligo Rovers travelled to Hunky Dorys Park with a certain amount of nerves, but left with three valuable points in their pursuit of a first league championship since 1977.
Their match winner was their English-born-striker, Danny North, whose two goals were superbly executed and would ultimately prove decisive, as Drogheda, dreadful in the first half, showed considerable improvement in the second period, before falling short.
While they will point to a couple of near misses, Declan O'Brien's glancing header in the 56th minute being the closest they came to an equaliser, the unmistakable truth is that this was a game Sligo fully deserved to win.
And that was largely due to the perfect balance of their side. Whereas Drogheda, like so many other League of Ireland teams, are intent on persisting with a 4-3-3 formation, which supposedly gives them additional attacking options, Sligo's adherence to an old-fashioned 4-4-2 format allowed them tactical supremacy.
In particular, they caused havoc on their right-hand-side, where the attacking thrusts of Romauld Boco provided Rafael Cretaro with the sort of company wingers crave. And it was from this flank that two of their three goals stemmed.
Before that, though, came their opener, from a corner which found Jason McGuinness' head initially, before Gavin Peers dived bravely to head in a loose ball from six yards out.
Sligo's confidence soared. Controlling midfield, where Danny Ventre and David Cawley were positioned, they played with a tempo Drogheda simply could not live with.
And then, on 35 minutes, they showed they have a bit of class, too, tearing Drogheda apart in two passes, the first of which saw Cawley curl a beautiful 40-yard cross-field ball, where Ross Gaynor was waiting to receive possession.
The second saw Gaynor run past Stephen Quigley, and then stroke a low, powerful cross to the front post where North provided a decisive touch.
Already it looked like the game was up. Yet Drogheda came alive, pulling one back within two minutes via O'Brien, whose near-post header gave them hope. Another near-post header from the same player so nearly offered them equality, but was just off-target.
North's second chance of the night was not, though. Played in by Quigley, after Cretaro had broken clear from midfield, the striker calmly stroked the ball past Gabriel Sava. Sligo stay top.
Drogheda United -- Sava; Quigley, McNally, Prendergast, Grimes; Mulvenna (Brady 72), Gannon, M O'Brien (Hynes 77), Foley, S Brennan (Marshall 89); D O'Brien
Sligo Rovers -- Rogers; Boco, Peers, McGuinness, Davoren; Cretaro, Ventre, Cawley, Gaynor; Quigley (Dillon 79), North (Lynch 90)
Ref -- D Hancock (Dublin)