Red-hot Sligo leave Baraclough beaming
Bohemians 0 Sligo Rovers 3
IT may be early days in the new Airtricity League season, but the identity of the pacemaker should be enough to have the chasing pack worried.
Sligo's comfortable win here means they are five from five in their title defence, with Ian Baraclough's men showing assertiveness at a time where others are finding their stride.
This meeting with a capable Bohemians side on a tricky pitch had banana skin potential, but the champions coped with the conditions to confidently grab hold of the three points.
"We had a good pre-season, and I knew we were going to be fit and strong from the start," said Baraclough. "It just shows what you can achieve when you have a group of players pushing each other and wanting to be the best they can be."
With Danny North, Joseph Ndo, Danny Ventre, Gavin Peers and Seamus Conneelly on the way back from injury, it is ominous news for everybody else. Baraclough said this display left plenty of room for improvement, with success built on a quick start.
Within two minutes, they had seized the advantage, although the goal was borne from some uncharacteristically sloppy defending from Gypsies centre-half Owen Heary – whose night would end at half-time due to a knee problem.
He dealt ponderously with a left-wing cross from Ross Gaynor, thus allowing the in-form Raffaele Cretaro the time to control and poke the ball under Dean Delany.
Cretaro, who was pushed up to form an effective little and large partnership with imposing new recruit Anthony Elding, was a livewire in a bright start from the visitors.
As ever, their breaks were enhanced by the presence of overlapping right-full Alan Keane, who offers a different dimension. They did take some chances, however, and while the Gypsies were generally short on inspiration in the final third, they might have equalised when Bohs right-back Derek Pender slipped in Sligo native Kevin Devaney who sliced his effort wide as Gary Rogers advanced.
Sligo responded clinically by doubling their lead. Like Cretaro, Aaron Greene was back on familiar territory against his former employers and the Dubliner produced a goal-of-the -month contender as he collected a Ryan Connolly pass and expertly fired to the bottom corner from 25 yards.
Bohs tried to hit back and showed a desire to get the ball down on a bumpy pitch, yet they lacked a real outlet up top – in contrast to their opponents who always had an option from either Elding or Cretaro, with Lee Lynch also keen to support from the centre of the park.
They were slightly more conservative in the second half as they sought to close out the game and managed to restrict the Dubliners to speculative shots from distance. "I thought we were second best for parts of the game," said Baraclough. "I feel sorry for Aaron (Callaghan), 3-0 sounds like a drubbing, but it wasn't."
That scoreline was achieved with just over 20 minutes remaining. Once again, Cretaro was instrumental, making an incisive run into the area that was followed by a cross to the back post where Elding was waiting to dispatch a straightforward header.
The Englishman has scored in every league game since his winter arrival and should add to his tally with this kind of service.
"He'll be the first to admit that without his team-mates he wouldn't have got those goals," said Baraclough. "But he always seems to find space in the box. He knows where he has to be."
So do Sligo and, right now, that's where they are.
Bohemians – Delany; Pender, Heary (Paisley 45), Lopes, Byrne; Buckley (Hanaphy 82), Mulcahy, Traynor, McEvoy, Moore (Scully 60); Devaney
Sligo Rovers – Rogers; Keane, McMillan, Henderson, Gaynor; Connolly (Djilali 66), Cawley, Lynch, Greene (Millien 79); Elding, Cretaro (Martin 88)
Ref – G Kelly (Cork)