Date: 7:45 p.m. April 5, 2010
Venue: The Showgrounds
Sligo seemed in control of the game until the first Dundalk goal went in, and from there on in, the nerves began to show and the Sligo defence crumbled with self doubt, and really Dundalk should have won this one in the finish up.
The first chance of the evening fell to Padraig Amond, as a mishit Peter Cherrie clearance fell in his path about 18 yards out. Amond couldn't get the ball out from under his feet however and he then scuffed the ball into the ground, straight to Cherrie again. Dundalk also had a chance early on when Stephen Maher threaded a perfect through ball through to Faz Kudozovic upfront, but luckily for Sligo, Richard Brush smothered it up just in time.
The Bit O'Red midfield were passing it around Dundalk and played excellent counter attacking football in the first half. They invited Dundalk onto them and within seconds they moved ball from one player to the other, progressing the ball closer to the goal with every touch. Major credit for this must go to the Sligo wingers and attackers, as ball went from Eoin Doyle to Matthew Blinkhorn to Padraig Amond with ease.
Dundalk should have found themselves a goal up though when Ross Gaynor took a corner in the 25th minute. His cross was headed towards goal by Stephen Maher, but Brush could only fumble it towards Liam Burns, who found himself two yards out, with an open goal at his mercy. Burns then finished like a typical centre half finish, somehow firing over the bar.
Sligo did seem in complete control however, and it was this control that brought about their first goal two minutes later. The Sligo midfield were in control of the ball in the corner of the box, when Gary McCabe arrived out of nowhere to drive the ball into the top left hand corner of the goal.
The game then edged towards half-time and after the resumption, Dundalk upped their game. They nearly caught out Richard Brush once or twice as his tendency to rush out nearly cost the Bit O'Red dear, however it wasn't long before Rovers cruised to a 2-0 lead. A Gary McCabe corner was met at the back post by two Sligo Rovers players queuing up to score into the unguarded back post. It was the taller of the two, Mauro Almedia who got the goal in the end, reminiscent of the many he got in his first spell at the club.
Then, Dundalk staged the great escape fantastically. When Sligo went 4-5-1 and invited them on, they duly delivered and so nearly grabbed all three points. Three chances in about ten minutes saw Dundalk draw level and indeed nearly take the lead. The first came when Kudozovic danced in from the right wing towards the left and then darted the ball towards the goal. He found Gaynor who shot past Brush when he reached the ‘D’ at the edge of the box.
Two minutes later, an unmarked Ciaran McGuigan headed a Kudozovic cross past Brush from two yards to make it 2-2. Minutes later a Brush clearance rebounded off debutant Johnny Breen and onto the post which would have really spoilt the night for the hosts.
Both sides did have chances to win it at 2-2, and Sligo probably did have the better of those chances. Richie Ryan shot low from 25 yards, which was parried by Cherrie into the path of Blinkhorn who really should have done better from six yards out while at the other end, a corner sliced off Johnny Breen's boot and onto the crossbar deep into injury time.
Sligo Rovers: Brush; Ventre, Peers, Almeida, Keane; McCabe, O'Grady, Ryan, Doyle (Marshall 67); Blinkhorn, Amond (Doninger 62).
Subs not used: Dillon, Foran, Kelly (GK).
Booked: O'Grady (10), Doyle (26), Ventre (49).
Dundalk: Cherrie; Kelly, Breen (McGuigan 74),Burns, Hatswell; Maher, Miller, Melligan, Gaynor; Kuduzovic, Fenn (Breen HT).
Subs not used: Synnott, Murphy, Gregg (GK).
Booked: Gaynor (57).
Referee: Neil Doyle (Dublin)
Extratime.ie Man of the Match: Richie Ryan. Simply fantastic during the game, his transformation this season has been outstanding.