Max Mata. Ciaran Culligan/INPHO

Max Mata double helps Sligo Rovers move up to third spot

Bit O’Red beat Drogheda United 3-1 at the Showgrounds.

SLIGO ROVERS MOVED up to third spot in the Premier Division table after an impressive 3-1 win at home against Drogheda United at The Showgrounds.

A Max Mata double in the first-half gave Rovers their first home goals of the season, while Andrew Quinn pulled one back for the visitors in the second half.

Wilson Waweru’s backheel in the second-half ensured a first home win for the Bit O’Red this season.

John Russell’s side were yet to score a goal at home coming into tonight’s game, but had picked up just one defeat in their opening five games.

The home side have kept three clean sheets so far, with the Bit O’Red already showing signs of improvement from last season.

Russell was able to name an unchanged starting 11 for the second consecutive game, and new signing Dutch striker Rein Smit was named on the bench having been announced on Friday afternoon.

Kevin Doherty’s side have picked up a draw and a win in their last two games, having started their season with two defeats.

The Louth side made two changes from the side that drew with Galway in their last game.
Hayden McCann and Luke Heeney were out of the squad completely, with Andrew Quinn and Conor Kane coming in.

The visitors were looking dangerous from the off, forcing Ed McGinty into a couple of important saves early on.

With three minutes played, Frantz Pierrot tried to sneak it in at the corner but McGinty got the block in, before the Oxford loanee was called into action again seconds later to make the save.

Darragh Markey’s shot from distance on seven minutes didn’t really trouble McGinty, but the home fans were getting anxious with the visitors controlling the opening few minutes.

The home side were appealing for a penalty on 10 minutes, when it looked like Mata had been tripped on the edge of the box, but referee Eoghan O’Shea felt there was nothing illegal in the challenge.

A free-kick from Evan Weir fell for former Athlone striker Pierrot, and the 24-year-old turned inside the box but could only poke it into the hands of a grateful McGinty.

Drogheda had certainly had the best of the chances, but they would soon regret not taking them.

With 21 minutes gone, the home side scored their first Showgrounds goal of 2024.
In a lovely team move, captain Morahan played the ball out wide to Fabrice Hartmann and the RB Leipzig loanee cut inside before driving it to Ellis Chapman.

The former Cheltenham man crossed it in for Max Mata who fired home from close range to make it 1-0.

Five minutes later, Rovers had their second and it was that man Mata who scored again.
As Rovers broke forward on the counter, the pace of Simon Power caught the Drogheda defence off guard.

A cross from JR Wilson was fired in by Mata again, as he prepares to head off on international duty with New Zealand.

It might sound like a lie considering the scoreline, but the visitors had the better of the chances in the first-half, and came close on two occasions before half-time with former Sligo player Jack Keaney forcing a save from a corner, before Warren Davis hit the post with his curling effort.

Again, the Boynesiders were pressuring Rovers’ defence early in the second half, but Rovers did nearly make it 3-0 as Hartmann’s threatening ball in was headed wide by Mata.

Just before the hour mark, the visitors were back in this game.

Steve Bawa couldn’t believe it as his effort hit off the woodwork from close range, but Quinn was on hand to bundle it over the line, to make it 2-1.

It should have been 2-2 on 76 minutes, but an incredible save from McGinty denied Pierrot from close range after a great ball in from Aaron McNally.

Drogheda were proving a handful, but fresh legs for Sligo Rovers made a difference as Russell brought on his new signing Smit along with Will Fitzgerald, Kailin Barlow and Charlie Wiggett.

And while the home side were under pressure, it was all relieved with three minutes to go.

Former Herenveen youngster Smit burst forward, using his strength before playing it out wide for the pacey Power.

The former Shamrock Rovers winger sent it back into the middle, and an incredible backheel from Waweru beat Wogan to ensure the three points for the home side who move into third place.


Sligo Rovers: Ed McGinty, JR Wilson (Charlie Wiggett, 76), Nando Pijnaker, Ollie Denham, Reece Hutchinson, Fabrice Hartmann (Will Fitzgerald, 64), Niall Morahan, Connor Malley (Rein Smit, 78), Ellis Chapman (Kailin Barlow, 64), Simon Power, Max Mata (Wilson Waweru, 76).


Drogheda United: Andrew Wogan, Andrew Quinn, Evan Weir, Jack Keaney, Conor Kane, Warren Davis (Aaron McNally, 74), Gary Deegan, Darragh Markey, Oisin Gallagher (Ryan Brennan, 62), Steve Bawa (Killian Cailloce, 62), Frantz Pierrot.

Ref: Eoghan O’Shea.

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