Shamrock Rovers move closer to the title with Sligo win

Rory Gaffney’s first-half strike the difference as Hoops earn three points at Showgrounds

Rory Gaffney scored the winner for Shamrock Rovers against Sligo. Photograph: Evan Logan/Inpho

Rory Gaffney scored the winner for Shamrock Rovers against Sligo. Photograph: Evan Logan/Inpho

 

Sligo Rovers 0 Shamrock Rovers 1

Shamrock Rovers edged one step and three points closer to retaining their Premier Division title thanks to a deserved 1-0 win at third-placed Sligo Rovers.

Striker Rory Gaffney got the only goal of the game midway through the first-half, as the Hoops went six points clear at the top.

It was Gaffney’s second goal this season at the Showgrounds. But while his late equaliser on their previous visit at the start of the season earned Stephen Bradley’s side a share of the spoils, this goal earned them a first win of the season against Liam Buckley’s Sligo.

And it was merited, as the visitors showed the greater ability and energy, against a side playing a third game in eight days.

The previous two games for Sligo had been morale-boosting wins at home to St Patrick’s Athletic and Dundalk. But, while they probably did the leaders a favour by beating the second-placed Saints, they got no thanks on an evening in which the Hoops were sharp in the tackle and constantly threatening.

Gaffney, in particular, was a menace, and he tested Sligo ’keeper Ed McGinty early on, while the shot-stopper also had to be alert to deny Dylan Watts from an early effort.

Sligo had the best defensive record in the league heading into the game, but they were undone on 26 minutes. It came about from their own throw-in, turned over by the visitors on the left, with Gaffney teeing up Gary O’Neill for a shot from just outside the area.

McGinty was again well positioned to make the save, but Gaffney continued his run and was the only one to react to the rebound, firing it first time past McGinty and into the net.

A second goal could have followed before the break, as Barry Cotter enjoyed a fruitful evening on the left side.

Three times he was involved in moves that led to further chances for Gaffney, Watts and Richie Towell, but all three failed to call McGinty into further action.

Sligo’s best chance came from a Greg Bolger free-kick that was flicked narrowly wide at the back post by Andre Wright, although the in-rushing Garry Buckley may have had a clearer sight of goal had the striker not intervened.

It didn’t get much better for the hosts in the second-half, with McGinty again having to save from Gaffney and Towell, but substitute Melvyn Lorenzen did have a late chance to level, only to drag his shot wide of goal.

Sligo Rovers: McGinty, Horgan, Buckley, Mahon, McCourt, Cawley, Bolger, McDonnell, de Vries (Lorenzen 66), Figueira, Wright.

Shamrock Rovers: Mannus, Gannon, Lopes, Grace, Cotter, Finn (Farrugia 82), Watts, Towell, O’Neill, Mandroiu (McCann 82), Gaffney (Emakhu 87).

Referee: N Doyle.

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