Super Reds shine as Premier Division leaders inflict classy defeat on Shams
The most endearing thing about the Airtricity League is that redemption or crucifixion is only a game or two away.
Neither scenario worries Sligo Rovers at present as Ian Baraclough’s inspired charges deservedly lead the Premier Division by six points with one third of the season’s 33 games played.
Gloriously in control when beating Shamrock Rovers 3-0 in front of RTE’s cameras last Saturday afternoon, Rovers know that the next game, Friday’s visit of Shelbourne, their foes from last season’s FAI Ford Cup final, holds as much relevance as the hosting of the champions of 2010 and 2011.
Such was the title holders’ disarray that they finished with nine players. Chris Turner (once of Rovers) saw a straight red after self-destructing five minutes into the second-half, firstly by catching Danny Ventre and then by shoving Alan Keane, while centre-back Graham Gartland picked up a soft second yellow in the 85th minute.
Right now, Rovers can currently do no wrong. Unbeaten in the top flight, they extended this sequence against a Shamrock Rovers side that, even as it unravelled in the face of the Bit O’Red’s organisation, tenacity and skill, is bedevilling itself.
The Dublin giants drew their two Premier Division games before the trip to Sligo (against Derry City and UCD) and revealed flaws that Rovers’ exploited.
Susceptible to passes hit over the top or down the flanks, Shams were fortunate to be just 2-0 down at the break due to Danny North’s clinical finish after 30 minutes and improving Ballina youngster David Cawley’s exquisite shot from outside the area seven minutes later.
The visitors’ own goal machine, Gary Twigg, was restricted to two first-half opportunities, the best of these a low shot from an angle that Rovers goalkeeper Gary Rogers (an imposing, reliable presence) thwarted.
Twigg’s striker partner, Daryl Kavanagh, was occasionally busy, so too ex-Rovers player Gary McCabe, but Rovers’ consistent defensive work (take a bow, Gavin Peers and Jason McGuinness) meant Shams failed to significantly prise open the home side’s defence.
Rovers’ won the midfield war, as Danny Ventre mixed matador moments with a deft passing ability overlooked by those who unfairly think him just a feverish tackler.
It was in attack, however, where Rovers dominated. Backed by defensive assertiveness and Ventre’s prompting, Danny North and Mark Quigley moved the ball at will. North, whose second goal, a 77th minute strike, was another example of a confident striker enjoying his work, could have netted four times.
Quigley, though, was a class apart. With Joseph Ndo sidelined because of a hamstring injury, Quigley became the side’s playmaker and was, at times, unmarkable as he dictated moves.
An outlandish 18th minute lob from at least 40 yards left the out-of-position Shams goalkeeper, Reyaad Pieterse, stranded – but the crossbar intervened. A cushioned flick set up substitute Lee Lynch for a 65th snap shot, one of numerous chances for the home side, as Quigley’s influence, along with that of Ventre and North, meant that Rovers fans were gleefully shouting ‘we are top of the league, we are top of the league’. The Showgrounds may reverberate to the sound of this chant for months to come.
Best for Rovers: Mark Quigley
Sligo Rovers: Gary Rogers; Alan Keane, Gavin Peers, Jason McGuinness, Iarfhlaith Davoren, Romauld Boco (John Dillon 75), David Cawley (Lee Lynch 60), Danny Ventre (c), Ross Gaynor, Mark Quigley (Rafael Cretaro 81), Danny North
Subs not used: Richard Brush (gk), Marty Owens, Pascal Millien, Jake Dykes
Booked: Gavin Peers, Danny Ventre, David Cawley
Sent off: None
Shamrock Rovers: Reyaad Pieterse; Kerrea Gilbert, Graham Gartland, Craig Sives (Colin Hawkins 75), Conor Powell (Billy Dennehy 62); Gary McCabe, Chris Turner, Stephen Rice, Killian Brennan; Daryl Kavanagh (Aaron Greene 66), Gary Twigg (c)
Subs not used: Oscar Jansson (gk), Gary O’Neill, Stephen O’Donnell, Conor McCormack
Booked: Graham Gartland, Daryl Kavanagh, Gary McCabe, Gary Twigg, Stephen Rice
Sent off: Chris Turner, Graham Gartland
Referee: Tom Connolly (Dublin)