Sligo Rovers pulled out all the stops for a thrilling penultimate performance in this season’s Premier Division on Friday night as the Bit O’Red beat St. Patrick’s Athletic 2-0 at Richmond Park with a brace from second half substitute Dinny Corcoran.
The result all but ensures Sligo’s place in the Premier Division next season while St. Pats are forced again to wait to secure their place in European competition for next season, Bohemians now trailing the Saints in fourth by two points with one game remaining.
A dogged display from Micky Adams’ side echoed the intention of his team not ending the night savouring the bitter taste of defeat - with the outcome of the night’s game split between European fixtures and a place in the Premier Division next season, motivation was not in short supply.
Despite Sligo’s resolute defensive output it was Pats that offered the game’s first chance on goal as a smart one-two between Jamie McGrath and Aaron Greene saw McGrath send a dipping effort on top of Richard Brush, the Sligo goalkeeper forced at the last second to pull out a quality save to tip over.
Recently voted PFAI Team of the Year entry James Chambers offered another chance on goal as he released a snapshot that caught Sligo’s defenders wrong-footed, the player finding the space outside the box to crash his effort off the crossbar.
Despite Pats’ clear-sighted dominance in efforts on goal in the opening half it was their lack of conversions and Richard Brush’s blunt reluctance to be beaten that sent waves of confidence through the Sligo eleven to push forward in search of the opening goal.
Brush was called to attention again as the goalkeeper heroically clawed Christy Fagan’s sliding effort on goal off the line following Conan Byrne’s perfectly timed low delivery into the box.
Sligo did go on the front foot and ended the half on the upper hand as Jennison Myrie-Williams took command of the right wing to stamp his charge on the game.
In a flurry of assists he succeeded in taking on and beating Pats captain Ger O’Brien to the end line before cutting back a critical cross that set up Gary Boylan to test Conor O’Malley - the defender’s effort guided directly at the Pats goalkeeper.
Myrie Williams caused havoc again before the interval as he crossed at the near post for Sander Puri, the Estonian international narrowly avoiding giving his side the lead as his header crashed into the side netting of the goal to end the half.
Pats went on the front foot after the break as Aaron Greene was afforded far too much time and space twenty metres from goal, the forward releasing a left-footed effort deflected goal-bound, forcing Richard Brush to move himself tremendously to force the effort from nestling into the top corner and out for a Pats corner kick.
Myrie-Williams was sparked into life again for Sligo on the hour mark as he fulfilled his night’s work of making Ian Bermingham and Shane McEleney’s evening a living hell to endure. The forward implemented his patented jig past Ian Bermingham forcing the Pats defender out of the play to bring Conor O’Malley into a fine save with the ‘keeper’s feet.
However the sheer force from O’Malley’s save brought the ball up into the night’s sky and back down to earth to meet substitute Dinny Corcoran’s chest, forcing the ball goalbound and into the back of the net with less than half an hour to play.
Pats were jerked into a reaction by nature of the fact that a loss would mean European football could be postponed for next season were results to go against them. Christy Fagan earned the time and space to get his shot away but persistent dummies brought the striker too far and his eventual shot five yards from goal was blocked down and cleared.
Bad became worse for the hosts as Myrie-Williams was taken down inside the box by the dive of Conor O’Malley - Dinny Corcoran dispatching the ball past the goalkeeper for 2-0 with less than fifteen minutes to play.
Sligo commanded the Richmond Park turf with unrelenting determination in the dying embers as every other ball was won firmly by the head, leg or boot of a player in blue and white.
St. Pats attacked desperately in search of the two goals needed for European football next summer in the final stages, but the narrative was written and the result confirmed, as Sligo departed Inchicore with the three points knowing that they were one step closer to cementing their Premier Division status for another year.
St. Patrick’s Athletic: Conor O’Malley, Ger O’Brien, Sean Hoare, Shane McEleney, Ian Bermingham, Conan Byrne (Lee Desmond 77), James Chambers, Killian Brennan, Aaron Greene, Jamie McGrath, Christy Fagan
Subs not used: Pat Jennings (gk), Ian Morris, Jack Bayly, Darragh Markey, Morgan Langley, Sam Verdon
Sent off: None
Sligo Rovers: Richard Brush, Alan Keane, Danny Ledwith, Gavin Peers, David Cawley, Raffaele Cretaro (Dinny Corcoran 56), Sander Puri, Gary Boylan, Keith Ward, Morten Nielsen (Kevin Devaney 80), Jennison Myrie-Williams (Ruairi Keating 91)
Subs not used: Ryan Colter (gk), Jake Dykes, Gary Armstrong, Anthony Elding
Bookings: Raffaele Cretaro (35)
Sent off: None
Referee: Anthony Buttimer
ExtraTime.ie Man of the Match: Richard Brush (Sligo Rovers)