Sligo Rovers will go into the second leg of their Setanta Sports Cup Semi-Final against St Patrick’s Athletic with a two goal cushion following a 2-0 win at The Showgrounds on Tuesday evening.
Danny North struck against his former side in either half to give The Bit O’ Red a glorious opportunity to end their Semi-Final hoodoo in the competition and reach the Final for the first time.
A chance for Kieran Djilali within the opening minute was a sign of things to come when he crafted a fine move with Sean Maguire, but the winger saw his effort turned around the post by Rene Gilmartin.
Rovers deservedly took the lead in the 17th minute through the clinical North. Aaron Greene dispossessed Killian Brennan in his own half and set-up the striker to drive a low striker under Gilmartin and into the bottom right corner from 20 yards.
Pats’ best opportunity of the half came from a free-kick when Brennan found himself within shooting range, but the winger could only blast it over the bar.
A piercing run from Greene down the left almost set up a goal before the break for Rovers when he crossed for Paul O’Conor but the midfielder, who could have had a hat-trick in the first-half, could not keep his strike down.
The home side could, and probably should, have doubled their lead after 48 minutes when Maguire latched onto cleared ball with his head, but the striker failed to find the target.
Mark Quigley was showing minor glimpses of his quality in the first half and came agonisingly close to an equaliser when his looping shot from the edge of the box landed on the roof of Richard Brush’s net.
A 66th minute free-kick from Ross Gaynor caused some concern for the Saints’ rearguard when Kalen Spillane flashed a header across the face of goal, but no one was on hand to turn it into the back of the net.
St Pats had to see out the final 20 minutes with ten men when James Chambers was sent off for a second bookable offence following a rough challenge on Seamus Conneely.
Just a minute later, North should have had his second when Maguire released him for a one-on-one with Brendan Clarke who was equal to the striker’s effort before pushing an O’Conor shot wide.
As the game entered it’s final minute, North got his second on the end of a super spell of build-up play. Alan Keane broke down the right flank and squared a ball to Eric Odhiambo who picked out the Grimsby native with an inch perfect through ball. North was forced into a tight angle but this didn’t daunt him and he still managed to squeeze an effort past Clarke.
Sligo Rovers: Richard Brush; Alan Keane, Jeff Henderson, Kalen Spillane, Ross Gaynor; Seamus Conneely, Paul O’Conor (David Cawley 85), Kieran Djilali (Eric Odhiambo 66), Aaron Greene; Sean Maguire (John Russell 73), Danny North.
Subs not used: Gary Rogers, Evan McMillan, Jake Dykes, Regan Donelon.
St. Patrick’s Athletic: Rene Gilmartin (Brendan Clarke 52); Conor McCormack, Derek Foran (Ken Oman 25), Sean Hoare, Lorcan Fitzgerald; James Chambers, Lee Lynch, Killian Brennan, Daryl Kavanagh, Conan Byrne (Chris Forrester 68); Mark Quigley.
Subs not used: Ger O’Brien, Ian Bermingham, Greg Bolger, Christy Fagan.
Referee: Mervyn Smith.
Extratime.ie Man of the Match: Seamus Conneely (Sligo Rovers).