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Dublin: 12°C Sunday 9 May 2021

Shamrock Rovers return to top of the Airtricity League with win over Sligo

Sligo have now lost three on the spin.

Ryan Brennan celebrates scoring the game's only goal.
Ryan Brennan celebrates scoring the game's only goal.
Image: Donall Farmer/INPHO

Shamrock Rovers 1

Sligo Rovers 0

BIT BY BIT, the belief is returning to Tallaght. The roar that greeted the final whistle was proof of that.

Ryan Brennan’s first Shamrock Rovers goal kept the Hoops on top of the Premier Division table and ensured that they drew first blood in what has developed into an intriguing rivalry in recent years.

No doubt it will give them added satisfaction that as they notched up their third straight win, it also left Sligo to ponder three defeats from their opening four games.

After paying the price for shuffling his deck against Dundalk, Trevor Croly stuck with the same 11 that served him so well against Bohemians last week and got a similarly impressive performance in return.

That this was RTE’s first Friday night fixture of the season didn’t seem to hit the attendance too hard, and this was a much better advertisement for the league than the previous televised games have been.

Ultimately it was settled in the 13th minute when Brennan raced forward from midfield to finish Ciaran Kilduff’s pull back.

That followed a hectic 60 seconds which saw Danny North appeal for a penalty after Jason McGuinness bundled into him from behind. There was contact but referee Neil Doyle felt that the striker had gone down too easily and waved play on.

North clearly felt that he had unfinished business with Conor Kenna and while he squared up to the Shamrock Rovers skipper, Simon Madden picked out Kilduff with a long pass.

The big striker has become the focal point of Croly’s 4-5-1 formation and again he was a dangerous threat as well as an industrious link man.

He forced his way past Evan McMillan and when he pulled the ball square across the face of Gary Rogers’ goal, Brennan arrived right on cue to score.

There was even more controversy in the 23rd minute when Ronan Finn’s thumping shot was spilled by Rogers and again Kilduff was at the heart of things.  He was quickest to react and nicked the ball away from the scrambling keeper who brought him down.

The offside flag saved Sligo, though the replays showed Kilduff was clearly on.

The visitors should have equalised seven minutes before the break after a madcap scramble in the Hoops penalty area which left Barry Murphy needing lengthy treatment. He made a superb save to deny North, who really should have scored with a header from point-blank range, but in doing so collided with the post.

Murphy was still prone on the ground as the ball pinged around the box before Eric Odihambo hit the top of the crossbar from 12 yards with the unguarded target at his mercy.

If the injury was as serious as it initially looked Murphy should have been substituted without question but he was cleared to continue and emerged with his teammates after the break.

Shamrock Rovers pressed forward in search of a second and Rogers made a superb save to push Kilduff’s shot around the post after he had been sent through by Brennan just before the hour mark.

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Brennan had a couple of chances to grab another himself but flashed one shot wide across the face of goal and then brought the best out of Rogers again, the keeper flying across to get his hand to a well-placed header on 70 minutes.

Ian Baraclough emptied his bench and the hosts retreated in the final 15 minutes, inviting Sligo back into it.

Their best chance fell to Odhiambo who again should have scored but saw his shot hacked clear off the line by Kenna after an initial goal-bound effort came back off Jeff Henderson.

If there was any consolation for him, it was that Kilduff can rival him for miss of the night after he rounded Rogers on the stroke of 90 but skewed wide.

On another night that might have been pivotal but the Tallaght faithful left with a smile and with belief rising that this year might be different.

SHAMROCK ROVERS: Murphy, Madden, Kenna (c), McGuinness, Byrne, Robinson, Brennan, McCabe, Finn, O’Connor (Sheppard 83), Kilduff.

Substitutes: O’Malley, Cornwall, Bayly, Zayed, Kelly, Sheppard, McPhail.

SLIGO ROVERS: Rogers, Keane (c), Henderson, McMillan, Greene, Djilali, Cawley (, Conneely, Odhiambo (O’Conor 81), Maguire (N’Do 57), North.

Substitutes: Brush, Dykes, Russell, Spillane, O’Conor, N’Do.

Referee: Neil Doyle.

Aitricity League Premier Division results

Athlone Town 0 – 3 Cork City

Bray Wanderers 3 – 5 UCD

Derry City 0 – 0 St. Patrick’s Athletic

Dundalk 1 – 1 Bohemians

Limerick 0 – 1 Drogheda United

Shamrock Rovers 1 – 0 Sligo

Airtricity league first division result – Waterford United 1 – 2 Wexford Youths

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About the author:

Niall Kelly

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