Friday 23 February 2018

Sligo take tentative step towards title

victory over St Patrick's Athletic at the Showgrounds next Saturday will be good enough for Sligo Rovers to become champions for the first time in 35 years after they came away from Turner's Cross with a valuable point.

It may not have been the result the large band of travelling supporters had dreamed of on the long trek south, but they now know that one more win will be enough to end the long wait.

In saying that, the run-in isn't going to be easy for Sligo with Pat's coming to the Showgrounds next weekend followed by games away to Drogheda United and finally at home to Shamrock Rovers.

Three points still need to be amassed to make them champions for the first time since 1977, but they remain unbackable favourites, having only suffered one league defeat all season, against UCD at the beginning of the campaign.

With both St Pat's and Drogs forced to watch from home due to tomorrow afternoon's FAI Cup semi-finals, all eyes were on Ian Baraclough's team. They failed to produce the glittering football that has characterised their season, finding it tough against a Cork team which did a good job at frustrating them through dogged defending and first-rate organisation.

In what was a dull spectacle overall, for an hour Sligo dominated in terms of possession and territory, but with Cork's priority to contain the league leaders rather than attack them, they struggled to unlock the home defence and were restricted to attempts from range.

The pick of those came from Raffaele Cretaro and Danny Ventre, both narrowly missing the target from 25 yards.

On the whole, though, the game was tentative, with perhaps the occasion getting to a nervy Bit O'Red.

Mark Quigley, who has been in brilliant form with nine goals in his last 11 games, was given little space and despite dominating in midfield, Rovers rarely made their way into the Cork box.

Pascal Millien did give Danny Murphy a torrid time on the right flank but repeatedly his crosses were batted away by the sturdy Cork duo of Kalen Spillane and skipper Kevin Murray.

Indeed once City, who are still playing for a spot in next year's Setanta Cup along with Derry, Shelbourne and Bohemians, stepped out of their shells entering the final half-hour, with Colin Healy leading the way, Sligo were given a couple of moments of worry.

Ian Turner went very close to breaking the deadlock on 66 minutes with a low drive which Gary Rogers did well to keep away following Spillane's long ball forward, and Spillane then rattled the post with a rocket header from Turner's corner on 78.

Industrious midfielder Shane Duggan had one more chance for the Leesiders deep in injury-time only to shoot straight at Rogers from the edge of the box, but in the end both sides would have been relatively satisfied coming away with a share of the spoils as Sligo's focus moves on to the Saints.

CORK CITY -- McNulty; Kavanagh, Spillane, Murray, Murphy; Turner, Duggan, Dunleavy, Lenihan (Healy 46), Horgan (Kenny 85); Sullivan.

SLIGO ROVERS -- Rogers; Conneely (Cawley 44), Peers, McGuinness, Gaynor; Millien (Buchanan 83), Ventre, N'Do, Cretaro; Quigley, Lynch.

REF -- D Tomney (Dublin).

Irish Independent

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