Max Mata double helps Sligo narrow gap in battle for Europe slots

Introduction of Kiwi substitute vital to Bit O’Red securing three points at home

Sligo Rovers 2 Bohemians 1

Max Mata scored a quickfire double as Sligo Rovers came from behind to take a crucial three points at home to Bohemians at the Showgrounds.

The New Zealander came off the bench at the break and finished twice in the space of three minutes to rescue the win for the Bit O’Red, who had been trailing to John O’Sullivan’s opener eight minutes into the second half.

The sides started the night equal on points in the table, and four points off St Patrick’s Athletic in the battle for fourth spot and possible European football.

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And with St Pat’s difficulties in European travel forcing a postponement of their game against Shelbourne, the hosts took advantage to narrow the gap to just a point ahead of a trip to Richmond Park next week.

It leaves Bohs struggling to keep up, despite coming into the game on the back of three wins – two in the league and one in the FAI Cup.

The quality of their goal suggested it was going to be a productive night for Gypsies in the north west, with a superb team move cutting the Rovers defence open and ending with Junior Ogedi-Uzokwe teeing up John O’Sullivan at the edge of the box to finish low into the bottom corner, despite the efforts of Sligo netminder Luke McNicholas.

It was probably a deserved lead for the visitors, who shaded the possession stakes against a team that travelled back from a 5-1 Europa Conference League defeat in Norway midweek.

That loss to Viking brought an added headache of injuries to Garry Buckley and Adam McDonnell who missed the Bohs game, as did full-backs Lewis Banks and Colm Horgan.

Greg Bolger did make his first start for a number of months following injury, but both himself and captain David Cawley were withdrawn at the break as Sligo boss John Russell tweaked his team’s shape.

Mata and new signing Robbie Burton were introduced and both had an impact once O’Sullivan had the visitors in front.

Top-scorer Aidan Keena turned provider for the Bit O’Red as they drew level just past the hour-mark, with his ball behind the defence releasing Mata to finish confidently.

Burton combined with Will Fitzgerald to help create what proved to be the winner, as Fitzgerald’s cross from the left was not dealt with by Bohs and Mata took one touch to control before firing to the net.

SLIGO ROVERS: McNicholas, Pijnaker, Blaney, Kirk, Bolger (Mata ht), Morahan, Cawley (Burton ht), O’Sullivan, Liivak, Fitzgerald, Keena.

BOHEMIAN FC: Ryan, Doherty, Kerr, Kelly, Burke (Wilson, 89), Clarke (Afolabi, 81), O’Sullivan, Burt (Twardek, 73), Coote (Levingston, 73), McDaid, Ogedi-Uzokwe (Varian, 73).

REFEREE: R Matthews.