Date: 7:45 p.m. June 18, 2011
Venue: The Showgrounds
The Students started the brighter and didn't allow the League Cup winners into any sort of early stride. Graham Rusk played as the solitary striker in front of Danny Ledwith who sat deep on the toes of Sligo captain Richie Ryan. With the midfield maestro subdued and without a chance to play his passing game the Students found room to get on the front foot.
Rusk went close on two occasions in the opening period. The lively striker's best chance fell to him on the left side of the box, when he cut in from the edge of the area and sent a curled effort around Danny Ventre and Brendan Clarke Clarke aiming for the far corner but just beat the post. He collected another loose ball via a dispossession of Joseph Ndo, who alongside Ryan was suffering at the hands of the tenacity of the Students, but the forward's shot was collected by Clarke in the Sligo goal at second time of asking amid gasps in the stands. Sligo were visibly lacking any sort of coherence.
Full of gusto, but maybe lacking in mature choice selection the Students pressed hard up the Sligo half but failed to make the inroads into the Sligo box, preferring to shoot on sight rather than work the space, an approach they would soon regret. The Bit O'Red started to find the angles around the middle of the park. In particular Alan Kirby instigated many passing triangles in the UCD half. However the same failings, namely a lack of penetration, haunted the hosts until the 44th minute.
Ryan started to feed off Kirby with well timed runs from deep and after collecting the ball 30 yards from goal he chipped over the midfield to find Aaron Greene in a wide position, the makeshift left back made light work of the fullback before pulling back from the end line to find Cretaro who slotted home with a neat finish.
If UCD were aghast to have conceded a goal just before halftime after all their constructive work, to concede a second before the whistle would have been thought disastrous but a second register is what prevailed. Immediate pressure from the hosts following tip off manufactured a corner for Ndo to swing in. Jason McGuinness rose highest to meet the corner and his header was parried by Ger Barron in the UCD goal, but only to the feet of Eoin Doyle who couldn't miss from three yards and the halftime whistle sounded.
With heads clearly up coming out of the tunnel Sligo set about sealing the win as soon as possible. Ndo attempted an audacious 40 yard effort but such was his luck on the night it sailed high and over. That existed merely as a warning to the Students as to the intent in the Sligo ranks. Doyle had a header sail over before Richie Ryan went close with a delightful chip from the edge of the area that had Barron scampering but it just clipped the bar. John Dillon tried his luck too from 30 yards after a neat shimmy saw him evade two defenders but his effort went the wrong side of the post.
The Bit O'Red weren't to be denied. Ryan, again the catalyst of all the Sligo manoeuvres found Cretaro on the left wing who returned the pass to his captain, Ryan's first time shot was expertly tipped over by Barron. From the resultant corner however, the game was sealed. Substitute Daryl Horgan stepped over the corner flag in the 67th minute and sent the ball straight into the net, a feat he is known for from his days in Salthill Devon. UCD were clearly on the ropes now as the Sligo passes were zipped around with real conviction and accuracy.
Fifteen tiresome minutes for the UCD contingent passed before Cretaro put the finishing touches on a well deserved Sligo win. Ryan found Kirby who fed Cretaro on the left side of the pitch. The winger cut in from the sideline and sent a great shot around Ger Barron into the far corner to the delight of most of the 1,567 attendees.
The remaining minutes were played out at strolling pace as Ryan conducted the pace to his own liking without much resistance from the Students who were by now dead on their feet chasing shadows.
Sligo now move up to 33 points, five behind the leaders who they meet next Saturday. A good display of attacking prowess will serve the Bit O'Red well to dispel the notion of losing pace with the leading group. UCD, however have conceded ten goals in two games and will have to look at their levels of consistency, they can take solace from the fact that few teams will come to the Showgrounds to play Sligo at their own game and hold their own for long periods. In the end the greater solidity and maturity told in this encounter and the four goals were justly deserved for the second half performance alone.
Sligo Rovers: Brendan Clarke; Danny Ventre, Jason McGuinness, Alan Keane, Aaron Greene; Richie Ryan, Alan Kirby, Joseph Ndo (John Russell,66), John Dillon (Daryl Horgan,66), Raffaele Cretaro (Kevin Devaney,84); Eoin Doyle.
Subs Not Used: Mark McGoldrick, Ciaran Kelly, Derek Foran, Matthew Blinkhorn.
UCD: Ger Barron; David O'Connor, Ciaran Nagle, Sean Harding, Thomas Boyle; Paul O'Connor, Darren Meenan (Eoin Roche,84), Dean Marshall (Sean Russell,76), Daniel Ledwith (Robbie Benson,76), Paul Corry; Graham Rusk.
Subs Not Used: Cillian Morrison, John Kelly, James Kavanagh, Samir Bellhout.
Extratime Man of the Match: Two goals for Cretaro, but Ryan was at the heart of all good things red on Saturday evening.