A stunning Regan Donelon free-kick earned Sligo Rovers a priceless point in their battle for survival as they held Shamrock Rovers to a 1-1 draw at Tallaght Stadium.
The Hoops made two changes from their Cup semi-final defeat against Dundalk on Tuesday night, as Kevin Horgan and Aaron Bolger came in for Tomer Chencinski and Ryan Connolly.
However it was Gerry Lyttle’s men who started the brighter in the opening ten minutes, but they were not able to create any real chances with Vinny Faherty going the closest with a header.
The Hoops who were second best for most of the game at this point created the game’s first real chance as good Rovers build-up went out wide to Simon Madden.
He delivered a fantastic cross to pick out Gary Shaw, whose headed effort bounced off the underside of the bar before been gathered by Sligo goalkeeper Shaun Patton.
It was not long after Bradley’s side had another good opportunity. Aaron Bolger headed back in a Brandon Miele cross, causing a goalmouth scramble and the ball fell to Roberto Lopes, but his effort went over the crossbar.
The home side started to take control of the game and Gary Shaw had the next chance with Ronan Finn doing brilliantly to chip the ball over Kyle McFadden to get Shaw through on goal, but the striker lacked the composure to finish the chance off, putting it high and wide.
The Hoops went in front just a few minutes later. Miele got down the left-hand side and his cross to the front post was met by the run of Shaw, who made no mistake by sidefooting the ball past Patton to give Bradley’s side a deserved lead.
Rovers nearly managed to double their lead just minutes later as a corner from Miele from the left once again was put into the front post. Dave McAllister rose highest against two Sligo players but his headed effort crashed off the crossbar.
The Bit o’ Red had a good opportunity to level just after the restart as Lopes misjudged a header, letting substitute Gregory Moorehouse in, but he wasted the chance with his effort going nowhere near the goal.
Gerry Lyttle’s side will consider themselves quite lucky not to have had a man sent off as Daniel Kearns went in two footed on Lopes, but referee Jim McKell decided it only warranted a booking.
The second half produced very little in terms of goalmouth action at either end as the Hoops were more than content sitting on their goal lead, being very comfortable at the back, and the away side offered very little in terms of an attacking threat.
Sligo got the most unlikely of equalisers with a quarter of an hour to play as Trevor Clarke brought down Gregory Moorehouse on the edge of the box.
Regan Donelon took the chance with both hands as he wrapped his right foot around the ball, beautifully putting the ball into the top corner and giving Kevin Horan very little chance.
The away side grew in confidence from the equalizer and nearly took the lead.
A long throw from Rhys McCabe caused panic in the Rovers defence and Moorhouse flicked the ball towards goal. Horgan was beaten but the Rovers defence breathed a sigh of relief as the post came to their rescue.
A good point for Lyttle’s side as good results went there way in terms staying a Premier Division team for next season.
Stephen Bradley will be disappointed after being so comfortable in the game but they do qualify for Europe next season after Bray’s defeat to Dundalk.
Shamrock Rovers: Kevin Horgan; Simon Madden, Lee Grace, Roberto Lopes, Trevor Clarke (Luke Byrne 87); Ronan Finn, Aaron Bolger; David McAllister, Brandon Miele, Cameron King (James Doona 75); Gary Shaw.
Subs not used: Tomer Chencinski (gk), Dean Carpenter, Ryan Connolly, Michael O’Connor, Sean Boyd.
Booked: Roberto Lopes (54), Kevin Horgan (64), Trevor Clarke (75), David McAllister (90+4).
Sligo Rovers: Shaun Patton; Tobi Adebayo-Rowling, Regan Donelon, Kyle McFadden, Seamus Sharkey; Daniel Kearns (Benny Igiehon 74), Craig Rodden, Rhys McCabe; John Russell (Jamie McDonagh 66), Jack Keaney (Greg Moorhouse 45); Vinny Faherty.
Subs not used: Edward McGinty (gk), Raffaele Cretaro, Gary Boylan, John Mahon.
Booked: Regan Donelon (8), Craig Rodden (31), Daniel Kearns (64), Kyle McFadden (69).
Referee: Jim McKell.
Extratime.ie Player of the Match: Gary Shaw (Shamrock Rovers).