EA Sports Cup champions Sligo were forced into coming from behind after David Cassidy had given the Reds the lead in the 39th minute, but second half goals from skipper Danny Ventre and Ryan’s late free-kick earned the Bit o’ Red a place in the semi-finals.
Shelbourne made eight changes to the side that defeated Athlone Town last Friday, while Sligo opted to only make four changes from their fantastic 2-0 home win against Shamrock Rovers. However despite the strength of the Sligo line-up, Shelbourne held their own throughout the first half.
Set-pieces provided the greatest threat for the Reds as three corners in the opening 15 minutes tested Sligo’s defence. Despite Shelbourne’s enthusiasm from a bright start, Sligo soon started to control things with Cameroon international Joseph Ndo and John Russell pulling the strings in midfield.
The Bit o’ Red created the first clear-cut chance of the game on 17 minutes; Ndo’s sublime pass from his own half picking out Matthew Blinkhorn, who turned Andy Boyle, before firing straight into the arms of Paul Skinner.
The ease at which Sligo created the chance looked ominous for Shelbourne, but instead, the Premier Division side failed to push on from here and were left frustrated by Shelbourne’s great organisation and defensive shape.
Things were to take a turn for the worse for Paul Cook’s side shortly before half-time as the First Divison leaders took the lead on 39 minutes.
John Sullivan’s diagonal ball across the goal found Brendan McGill, who squared for the onrushing David Cassidy. The Shelbourne skipper’s first effort was superbly saved by Brendan Clarke, but the keeper was powerless to keep Cassidy’s rebound out of the net.
The goal definitely had an effect on Sligo as they were nearly level within 60 seconds as Matthew Blinkhorn’s goal bound shot from a corner was only denied by a fantastic block by Shels midfielder Colm James.
At the other end, David Cassidy again threatened the Sligo goal, first from a threatening free which nearly found the head of defender Ian Ryan, and secondly from a volley on the edge of the box which went just over Clarke’s crossbar.
The second half saw Sligo make a bright start, Matthew Blinkhorn turning smartly in the box before shooting over after some good build-up play by Ndo, while Eoin Doyle was guilty of missing a sitter after putting Aaron Greene’s cross well wide.
Shelbourne however refused to sit back and hang onto their lead, with Cassidy continuing to press forward and Brendan McGill on the right wing remaining a threat going forward. On 64 minutes, Colm James’ cross looked destined to find his skipper Cassidy, but Gavin Peers headed the ball clear.
However Shels couldn’t find the second goal, and Sligo’s superior skill and fitness told in the final 20 minutes. After Eoin Doyle failed to latch onto a Ndo pull back across the box, and Ritchie Ryan’s goalbound shot was blocked, Sligo got the equaliser they deserved.
Cameroon International Ndo’s found the run of Danny Ventre from his 78th minute corner and Sligo skipper’s header was just too much for Paul Skinner to hold as the ball found his bottom left corner. Shels were pinned back in their half for the remaining minutes of the game, and the pressure again proved to be too much for the north Dublin side in the dying moments of injury time.
Derek Foran’s surging run out of defence proved too hot for Shels to handle, and Kevin Dawson brought down the centre half, earning a second yellow card and giving Sligo a free from the edge of the box. After Dawson had left the field of play, Ryan stepped up and found the top corner of Skinner’s net to give his side a place in the semi-finals of the EA Sports Cup.
To add further insult to injury, Alan Matthews’ side were reduced to nine men as second half substitute Chris Mulhall was sent off for a late tackle on Danny Ventre shortly after the restart. Paul Cook’s men march on and now are just two games away from retaining their crown.
Shelbourne: Paul Skinner; Gareth Matthews, Ian Ryan, Andy Boyle, Seán Byrne; Brendan McGill, Colm James, David Cassidy, John Sullivan (Kevin Dawson 66), Barry Clancy; Karl Bermingham (Chris Mulhall 72).
Subs Not Used: Dean Delaney, Lorcan Fitzgerald, David McGill, Conan Byrne, Phillip Hughes.
Sligo Rovers: Brendan Clarke, Danny Ventre, Gavin Peers, Derek Foran, Aaron Greene; Daryl Horgan (Alan Keane 62), John Russell, Joseph Ndo, Alan Kirby (Raffaele Cretaro 79), Eoin Doyle; Matthew Blinkhorn (Ritchie Ryan 62).
Subs Not Used: Ciarán Kelly, Jason McGuinness, Mark McGoldrick, John Dillon.
Referee: Neil Doyle.
Extratime Man of the Match: David Cassidy (Shelbourne)