(Photos by: Gary Fox - Freelance Photojournalist)
Shamrock Rovers started life in their new Tallaght stadium with a convincing two one win over Sligo Rovers. Gary Twigg and Dessie Baker got the goals, one in each half. Gavin Peers pulled one back for Paul Cook’s side late on, but it didn’t spark a revival that ever looked like spoiling a night that rightfully belonged to the Hoops.
Hoops manager Michael O’Neill named an unchanged line up from the side that were held to a draw at the Carlisle Grounds last Friday.
The visitors lined up without the suspended Alan Keane, while Mauro Almeida and Chris Butler were still ruled out through injury. Young Jason Noctor made his full debut at right back. Despite scoring a last minute winner last week against Cork City, Stephen Parkhouse once again started on the bench.
It was nearly the perfect start. Stephen Rice won possession back on the edge of his own box and quickly fed the available Shane Robinson. Robinson’s surging run brought him to the edge of the other box, before slipping the ball forward for Scotsman Gary Twigg. Twigg’s finish was classy, lifting the ball over the advancing Richard Brush, but the referees assistant spoiled the early celebrations and raised his flag for offside.
The Rovers faithful didn’t have long to wait for the real thing. With 18? minutes on the clock referee Alan Kelly awarded the home side a free kick just inside the Sligo half . Aidan Price got a head to it, sending it goalwards, and Twigg, on the half turn, volleyed it into the far corner of the net with his left foot.
Rovers had the ball in the net yet again after twenty five minutes, but “number three” was ruled out for a push in the back on a defender. Stephen Bradley then forced Brush to concede a corner, when his 28 yard free kick needed tipping over the crossbar. Danny Ventre had given away the free kick when he unneccessarily fouled Robinson.
Sligo came close to an equaliser right on the stroke of half time. A slick build up involving Conor O”Grady and Owen Morrison ended with the ball at the feet of Raf Cretaro. Cretaro struck it powerfully, but a deflection took it over the crossbar and out for a corner.
Rovers started the second half just as brightly as they did the first. Claims for a handball just outside the box were turned down and the ball made its way to Robinson on the right. The former Longford and Drogheda man made room for the shot, and from a tight angle brought the best out of Brush.
And it wasn’t long until Rovers got their second of the night. Ollie Cahill, who up until then was having a quiet night, breezed past Noctor in the 52nd minute and delivered a low left footed cross towards the penalty spot. Dessie Baker arrived late and side footed it into the net – the ball taking a slight deflection on its way past Brush.
Cretaro came close again with fifteen minutes to go. The Sligo native came in unmarked at the back post, but his downward header hit the turf and bounced high into Barry Murphy’s hands.
Shamrock Rovers: Barry Murphy; Simon Madden, Aidan Price, Sean Webb, Ian Bermingham; Stephen Rice, Shane Robinson, Stephen Bradley (Eoin Doyle 84), Ollie Cahill; Dessie Baker (Tadhg Purcell 74), Gary Twigg (Greg Cameron 88).
Subs not used: Robert Duggan (gk), Corie Treacy.
Sligo Rovers: Richard Brush; Jason Noctor (Paul McTiernan 79), Shaun Holmes, Gavin Peers, Danny Ventre; Brian Cash (Stephen Parkhouse 58), Conor O’Grady, Richie Ryan (Eoin Torpey 58), Romauld Boco; Raffaele Cretaro, Owen Morrison.
Subs not used: Ciaran Kelly (gk), Steve Feeney.
Referee: Alan Kelly
Extratime Man of the Match: Stephen Rice (Shamrock Rovers).