Sligo Rovers moved to within two points of Dundalk in second place last night thanks to a 3-1 win over Drogheda United at The Showgrounds.
Rovers took the lead in the first half thanks to Anthony Elding, whose second-half penalty doubled their lead, before Evan McMillan got a third. Gavin Brennan did manage to pull one back late on when Fabio O’Brien was taken down for a Drogheda penalty.
Ian Baraclough made six changes to the team that lost to St. Patrick’s Athletic last weekend. Ross Gaynor, Pascal Millien, Lee Lynch, Seamus Conneely, Liam Martin and Anthony Elding all took their places in the starting eleven as Kieran Djilali, Iarfhlaith Davoren, Danny North, David Cawley, Raffaele Cretaro and Aaron Greene all made way.
Mick Cooke, however, made just two adjustments to the Drogheda team that drew with UCD last weekend. Paul O’Conor and Alan Byrne made way for Gavin Holohan and Eric Foley.
With the two sides facing each other in the FAI Cup final in a fortnight, the game was pretty much a rehearsal for the cup final, and as it took a while for the game to really get going, you’d be forgiven for thinking it was just a rehearsal.
Drogheda had the first real opportunity of the game after twelve minutes when Graham Rusk struck from the edge of the box, but saw his effort take a deflection off Gavin Peers and smacking the corner of the crossbar.
But it was the home side who managed to get the opening goal after 38 minutes. Ross Gaynor’s corner from the left made its way to the feet of Anthony Elding, who coolly struck past Gabriel Sava to give Rovers the lead.
While the second half lacked excitement as much as the first, the hosts were well on top. Things went from bad to worse for Drogheda, as Rovers were awarded a penalty on the 65th minute as Shane Grimes was adjudged to have handled in the box. He picked up the game’s first booking for his troubles.
Anthony Elding stepped up and beat Sava in goal to double Sligo’s lead, and his tally for the night. Just minutes later, the Bit o’Red extended their lead further, as Evan McMillan headed in straight from Ross Gaynor’s corner.
His brother David, went agonisingly close shortly afterwards when he drilled the ball low and hard towards goal, but it was straight at Sava.
Substitute Paul O’Conor went close to pulling one back for the visitors with ten minutes left on the clock as his powerful shot went goalwards but took a deflection and went over.
The visitors did manage to pull one back on the 90th minute. Gavin Peers brought Fabio O’Brien down in the box, and Gavin Brennan’s penalty beat Gary Rogers in goal.
Sligo Rovers: Gary Rogers; Alan Keane (David Cawley 87), Evan McMillan, Gavin Peers, Ross Gaynor; Pascal Millien, Lee Lynch, Danny Ventre (David McMillan 60), Seamus Conneely, Liam Martin; Anthony Elding (Danny North 80).
Substitutes not used: Ciaran Kelly, Jeff Henderson, Raffaele Cretaro, Kieran Djilali.
Drogheda United: Gabriel Sava; Mick Daly, Gavan Holohan, Alan McNally, Shane Grimes; Graham Rusk (Declan O’Brien 72), Ryan Brennan (Cathal Brady 72), Eric Foley (Paul O’Conor 72), Philip Hand, Gavin Brennan; Peter Hynes.
Substitutes not used: Michael Schlingermann, Jason Marks, Derek Prendergast, David Cassidy.
Booked: Grimes (65)
Referee: Derek Tomney.
Extratime.ie man of the match: Alan Keane (Sligo Rovers).