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Crucial win for Shamrock Rovers over Sligo keeps them on course for title

Daniel Cleary, Dylan Watts and Graham Burke scored for the defending champions.

Daniel Cleary leads the celebrations.
Daniel Cleary leads the celebrations.
Image: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

SHAMROCK ROVERS RESTORED their five point lead at the top of the SSE Airtricity League Premier Division table after a scintillating performance saw them overcome Sligo Rovers with ease at The Showgrounds.

Dan Cleary and Dylan Watts netted in the first-half to give the Dubliners a 2-0 lead at the half way point, before Graham Burke made it 3-0.

Nando Pijnaker’s late goal gave the hosts a lift for the closing stages, but it wasn’t enough.

The Hoops’ hectic schedule saw them beat UCD on Thursday night to move five points clear at the top, before that lead was again cut to just two points when Derry City beat St Patrick’s Athletic on Friday night.

Sligo Rovers have had no competitive game since September 13th, and hadn’t played a league game at home in almost a month.

Manager John Russell is determined to ensure his side finish as strongly as possible, and their form has seen them win two of their last four after their win over Dundalk was chalked off due to the fielding of an ineligible player.

graham-burke-scores-the-third-goal Graham Burke scores the third goal. Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

Veteran Richard Brush, who enjoyed two spells with the Hoops, started in goals for Sligo after Luke McNicholas picked up an ankle injury while on duty with the Republic of Ireland Under 21s.

Colm Horgan, David Cawley and Max Mata all came into the team.

Stephen Bradley made just one change, with Ronan Finn starting in place of Neil Farrugia.

They may be in the midst of a hectic schedule, but there were no signs of wear and tear on the Hoops team as they dazzled in the first half.

Taking control of proceedings from an early stage, the Hoops restricted the hosts to little but half chances, while putting the Sligo defence under severe pressure early on.

A cross from Jack Byrne on 16 minutes wasn’t dealt with by the Bit O’Red defence, with Sean Kavanagh crossing for Cleary to nod past Brush to give his sde the lead.

The hosts again weren’t doing enough to trouble the visiting defence, and went even further behind on 38 minutes.

The impressive Jack Byrne linked up with Kavanagh before the ball was squared for Watts who curled his effort beautifully past Brush for 2-0.

John Russell’s side grew into the game before half-time, with a strong penalty claim waved away after the home side felt Max Mata’s effort hit a hand.

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Stephen Bradley’s side picked up where they left off for the second-half, and extended their lead even further through another well worked goal.

Jack Byrne picked out the run of Rory Gaffney on the right hand side, with the Galway man squaring it for Burke who tapped it past Brush.

The hosts brought on reinforcements to try scramble something from the game. And on 75 minutes they brought the game back to 3-1 as Nando Pijnaker poked in Kailin Barlow’s excellent free-kick.

It was nothing more than a consolation goal, with the Hoops holding out for a well deserved victory that sees them in control at the top of the table.

Sligo Rovers: Richard Brush, Colm Horgan, Shane Blaney, Nando Pijnaker, Paddy Kirk, Frank Liivak (Karl O’Sullivan, 72), Adam McDonnell (Kailin Barlow, 61), David Cawley (Robbie Burton, 46), Greg Bolger, Max Mata (Will Fitzgerald, 64), Aidan Keena.

Shamrock Rovers: Alan Mannus, Sean Gannon (Sean Hoare, 74), Lee Grace, Daniel Cleary, Ronan Finn (Neil Farrugia, 84), Dylan Watts, Sean Kavanagh (Andy Lyons, 71), Gary O’Neill, Jack Byrne (Viktor Serdenyuk, 85), Rory Gaffney, Graham Burke (Aaron Greene, 71).

Referee: Paul McLaughlin

About the author:

Jessica Farry

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