Sligo Rovers look to have booked their place in the semi-finals of this year’s Setanta Cup after a comprehensive victory over an under strength Crusaders side in Seaview on Monday night.
New signing Eric Odhiambo introduced himself to the travelling Sligo fans by notching a hat-trick on his competitive debut for the Connacht side with the first coming after seventeen minutes when the former Leicester City striker hooked the ball over his shoulder past Yohann Lacroix.
The home side had started the game brightly with Nathan Hanley and David McAllister taking the game to the Airtricity league side on either flank but gradually Paul O’Conor and David Cawley began to exert control in the midfield area as Rovers grew into the game.
Rafaele Cretaro was putting in his customary shift out wide and forced Lacroix into a save on eight minutes before almost picking out Odhiambo at the back post moments later. The pressure was beginning to build and it was no surprise when the debutant opened the scoring when he reacted quickly after Nathan Hanley could only partially clear Paul O’Conor’s shot off the line.
Crusaders almost equalised straight away when former Northern Ireland international Andy Smith got in behind the Sligo defence but Gary Rogers got down well to save the shot.
Cawley and O’Conor were providing a stubborn defensive shield that prevented the home side from making any meaningful progress in the Rover’s half, but the midfielders were also getting forward at every opportunity and Cawley fired a rasping shot wide on 25 minutes as the Ford FAI Cup champions began to dominate.
The second goal was inevitable as Sligo poured forward and it duly arrived on 39 minutes with Aaron Greene stealing in to claim the credit when Yohann Lacroix could only parry David Cawleys shot and Paul O'Conor looped the ball goalwards with Greene helping the ball over from the bare minimum.
The visitors were finishing the half strongly and reserved their best move of the match for added time with Cawley and Odhiambo combining well before Odhiambo fired home his second from twelve yards.
The second half began with Crusaders enjoying the better territorial advantage and Andy Smith was a touch unfortunate to see his header saved by Rogers when he connected with a Nathan Hanley free kick.
But Odhiambo put the game, and in all probability the tie, to bed on 62 minutes when he stabbed home from close range after Jeff Henderson headed a corner back across goal to seal his hat-trick and cap an impressive performance by the striker.
Ian Baraclough also gave a debut to deadline day loan signing Sean Maguire who almost scored with his first touch as he controlled a long ball and got away a shot but Lacroix did well to bundle it wide.
Declan Caddell bagged a consolation for the home side with eighteen minutes to go but it was Sligo who ran out comfortable winners on a night of positives all round for the Bit o’ Red.
Crusaders: Yohann Lacroix; Matthew King, David Magowan, Joshua Robinson, Nathan Hanley; David McAllister (Jordan Owens 71), Richard Clarke, Declan Caddell, Matthew Snoddy; Eamonn McAllister (Curtis Dempster 88) Andy Smith (Kyle Dillon 88).
Subs not used: Sean O’Neill, Paul Leeman, David McMaster, Michael O’Hanlon.
Sligo Rovers: Gary Rogers; Seamus Conneely, Jeff Henderson, Kalen Spillane, Ross Gaynor; Rafaele Cretaro, Paul O’Connor, David Cawley, Aaron Greene; John Russell (Sean Maguire 62), Eric Odhiambo (Danny Ledwith 71).
Subs not used: Richard Brush, Alan Keane, Evan McMillan, Jake Dykes, Joseph Ndo.
Referee: Raymond Crangle
Attendance: 300 (estimate)
Extratime.ie Man of the Match: Eric Odhiambo (Sligo Rovers)