Sligo Rovers 3, Shelbourne 0
EOIN who? Sligo Rovers 25-goals wonderkid from last season, Eoin Doyle, is but a fading memory at The Showgrounds as fans of the Bit O’Red hail a prolific new hero – Danny North.
The striker scored his 13th and 14th goals of the season to give Sligo Rovers three points against visitors Shelbourne last Friday night, with Pascal Millien’s superb third goal proving the icing on the cake for a 3-0 win and a great night’s entertainment.
Shels, who lost to Rovers in last season’s FAI Ford Cup final, are no slouches at this level, having taken the big scalp of Derry City, and they held Rovers to a 1-1 draw in the opening match of this season’s Airtricity League Premier Division.
However, on a pitch which encouraged Rovers’ style of play and against a side with the confidence of an 11-game unbeaten Premier Division run, the visitors were simply outclassed for much of this encounter.
Rovers boss Ian Baraclough had to contend without Ross Gaynor, who joined a thankfully short injury list alongside playmaker Joseph Ndo.
As a result, Rafael Cretaro found himself filling Gaynor’s traditional left-wing position in an otherwise familiar line-up, with David Cawley – scorer of that spectacular second goal against Shamrock Rovers the previous week – earning another start alongside skipper Danny Ventre in central midfield.
The first-half was cagy, with neither side finding their composure in the final third. Rovers had the first shot on target after only four minutes, but Mark Quigley’s strike was easily cleared by defender Andy Boyle.
It wasn’t until the final five minutes of the first-half that the game sparked into life. Quigley turned provider for Alan Keane, with a great ball which the full-back managed to get on target, but not beyond the outstretched leg of Shelbourne goalkeeper Dean Delaney.
Just two minutes from the break, however, Rovers found the opener. Danny Ventre’s superb long ball found Danny North, who muscled Boyle off his shoulder before striking the ball low and under Delaney.
Although the goalie got a leg to it, the momentum took it just inside his far post.
Shelbourne manager Alan Matthews was forced into making a change at half-time because of an injury to winger Paddy Kavanagh and it disrupted the visitors enough for Rovers to score a second.
This time Mark Quigley was the provider, sending North free with a well-weighted through ball which the cool striker again hit low beyond Delaney’s outstretched arm.
Quigley’s participation wouldn’t continue much further, the striker hobbling off the pitch just before the hour mark.
From their commanding position Rovers kept the pressure up on Shelbourne for the remainder of the second-half, without really threatening the visitors’ goalmouth.
That was until the introduction of new signing Pascal Millien for only his second appearance in front of the home crowd this season.
Danny North was afforded a standing ovation when he was replaced by the Haitian striker, whose impact on the game was immediate and spectacular.
With only his second touch (and barely 60 seconds after coming on) Millien latched onto a pass from Lee Lynch, cut in from the right and avoided two tackles before unleashing a curling strike which dipped into the far corner of the net. Millien, who came to prominence pre-season for his acrobatic goal celebration, didn’t disappoint, doing a somersault and cartwheel before going down to his knees and clasping his hands in prayer.
Sligo Rovers: Gary Rogers, Iarfhlaith Davoren, Gavin Peers, Jason McGuinness, Alan Keane, Danny Ventre (John Dillon 85), David Cawley, Rafael Cretaro, Romauld Boco, Mark Quigley (Lee Lynch 59), Danny North (Pascal Millien 84)
Subs not used: Richard Brush, Martin Owens, Liam Martin, Jake Dykes
Shelbourne FC: Dean Delaney, Gareth Matthews, Andy Boyle, Glen Cronin, Dane Cassidy (Philip Hughes 74), Paddy Kavanagh (Conan Byrne 45), Brian Shortall, Barry Clancy, Philip Gorman, Anto Murphy, John Sullivan (Kevin Dawson 54)
Subs not used: Brendan McGill, Paul Skinner, Ian Ryan, Paul Byrne