Rovers draw little comfort despite Sheppard equaliser
Sligo lose top spot after Cawley’s opener is cancelled out six minutes from time
Karl Sheppard of Rovers scores the equaliser against Sligo. Photograph: Donall Farmer/Inpho
Shamrock Rovers 1 Sligo Rovers 1: To the list of games Shamrock Rovers have drawn this season when they might have won you can add this, their first encounter with the league champions who left Tallaght last night with more to rue than the mere fact that they failed to hold on to a winning position.
In truth, Sligo looked for the best part of the night like a side that would have settled happily enough for the single point. After their hosts had gifted them a goal early in the second period, though, expectation would naturally have been revised upwards but in the end a late equaliser by Karl Sheppard effectively cost them top spot in the league table while an off the ball challenge by Anthony Elding on Stephen Rice moments after the restart that provoked furious reactions from the locals seems likely to deprive them of their leading scorer for, one suspects, several of their upcoming games.
It all made, at least, for an exciting end to what had generally been a tame enough game. The Dubliners dominated almost from beginning to end but it was only in the latter stages when the prospect of falling what would have been a truly remarkable 16 points behind the league champions loomed very large on the horizon that they really began to exert some serious pressure on Gary Rogers and his central defenders.
Their own back four had had precious little to deal with but they still some managed to hand Sligo what came close to being a winning position when Barry Murphy dwelt needlessly for a moment too long on a backpass and then, under sudden pressure from Elding, played the ball too powerfully at Danny Ledwith whose failure to control allowed David Cawley to spring forward and fire home.
The surprise lead briefly seemed to energise the visitors who up until then had generally contented themselves for smothering their opponents’ best efforts to push forward in the final third of the pitch.
Ultimately, though, Trevor Croly’s began to display the urgency the situation required and one of those sent on to add edge to the attack, Ciaran Kilduff, made a key contribution to the move that led to Sheppard’s headed equaliser five minutes from time by keeping the ball in play when Alan Keane thought he had successfully shielded it out of play.
Really late on the striker came close to grabbing a winner himself but his effort struck the outside of the post. By that stage Ian Barraclough could have been forgiven for expecting the worst.
The first half had produced nothing like that amount of drama with barely a serious chances for either side. What little work did have to be done by the goalkeepers fell to Rogers who twice had shots directed straight at him, the first by Stephen Rice and the second by Gary McCabe.
On each occasion, the home side’s greater determination in midfield had stood to them with Joseph Ndo, in particular, looking a little overwhelmed at times by the close attention he was subjected to.
Sligo did manage to pass the ball well in patches but for the most time they found themselves coming under pressure too quickly to really make much of the possession they enjoyed.