Those who left to beat the traffic would have been disappointed tonight as two goals in five minutes from two debutants, Billy Dennehy and Stephen Parkhouse, saw Sligo Rovers and Cork City share the spoils at the Showgrounds this evening.
Cork City started much the brighter of the two sides, with the Rebels finding space through the wings by using Danny Murphy and Pat Sullivan to great effect to break down the Sligo defence. The closest they could ever get however to opening the scoring was via a Sullivan through ball that Denis Behan collected in the Sligo half. Behan's effort, however, was lacklustre, as the attempted chip from outside the box was collected comfortably by Richard Brush in the Sligo goal.
After this it was all Sligo in the first half, as they tried to utilise their own wingers to take the upper hand in the game and as a result, successive chances fell to the Bit O’Red. After a Sean Doherty cross was deflected by the onrushing Rovers attack into the hands of Dan Connor in the Cork goal, it was spilled by the Rebel’s keeper. Owen Morrison quickly pounced on the ball and attempted a shot on goal from the left of the City penalty area. His shot however went wayward to Connor’s left and wide of the post.
The Sligo pressure was punctuated by a Dennehy shot that ended in the carpark following a lazy pass from Shaun Holmes in the Sligo defence. Sligo again resumed control after this, with Holmes and Conor O’Grady having great opportunities to score Sligo’s first of the new season. Sligo thought they had got their first in the 39th minute when Rafael Cretaro had the ball in the net following a parried O’Grady effort. The goal was ruled out however as Cretaro was judged to be offside when O’Grady took the shot.
The second half was a more muted affair in goalmouth action but it certainly heated up in the challenges exhibited on the pitch, with both Cretaro and Danny Murphy receiving yellows for challenges that were enthusiastic to say the least.
The array of chances that did fall to both sides in the second half were of the highest order. Sligo should have taken the lead on the 53rd minute when the impressive Holmes crossed from the left to Cretaro in the box. Despite having both time and space to volley the ball home from a short distance, it wasn’t to be for Cretaro, as his volley went wide when he really should have done better. Cork had two chances to take the lead when Danny Murphy and Robert Mezeckis failed to convert two frees from similar positions about thirty five yards from Brush’s goal.
Sligo then pushed for the win, bringing on Stephen Parkhouse to try and snatch a winner late on, but as a consequence they were left exposed at the back. Three minutes from time, Sullivan intercepted another lazy pass from Holmes on the right and eventually crossed the ball to Billy Dennehy, who was waiting patiently for the ball in the Sligo box. Dennehy, cool as a Finn Harps fan in the coldest of November nights, dispatched the ball past Brush to give City the lead against the run of play.
All was not lost for Sligo, however, as in the 89th minute they equalised through Parkhouse after he slotted the ball home in the box after controlling Romauld Boco’s cross from the left.
Sligo Rovers: Richard Brush; Alan Keane (Steve Feeney 88), Shaun Holmes, Gavin Peers, Danny Ventre; Conor O’Grady, Richie Ryan, Owen Morrison (Stephen Parkhouse 76), Raffaele Cretaro, Romauld Boco, Sean Doherty (Brian Cash 64).
Subs not used: Jason Noctor, Ciaran Kelly.
Cork City: Dan Connor; Neal Horgan, Robert Mezeckis, Dan Murray, Danny Murphy; Pat Sullivan, Colin Healy, Joe Gamble, Billy Dennehy; Fahrudin Kudozovic (Stephen O’Donnell 66 (Greg O’Halloran 89)), Denis Behan (Guntars Silagailis, 79).
Subs not used: Mark McNulty, Davin O’Neill.
Referee: Richie Winter.
Extratime.ie Man of the Match: Gavin Peers.