The battle of the Rovers ended with the home side coming out on top of a 3-0 scoreline at the Showgrounds.
In what was an ill tempered affair which saw seven Shams and three Sligo players yellow carded, including the champions’ Chris Turner, who was stupidly but deservedly sent off just before the hour mark. The Dublin club were reduced to nine men with six minutes to play when Graham Gartland received a second yellow card. The game had been decided by then though.
The Hoops goalkeeper Reyaad Pieterse was making his league debut and there was never any certainty between him and his back four. It’s an area which Shamrock Rovers manager Stephen Kenny will have to sort out if the Tallaght outfit hope to be at the summit come the end of the season.
From back to front, the Bit o’ Red dominated the entire 90 minutes. Danny North gave the home side the lead on the half hour mark. David Cawley then netted a screamer with a thumping drive which went in off the bar just before the interval. With 13 minutes to play, North netted his second and the home side’s third with a straightforward finish from 10 yards out and Sligo were six points clear at the top of the table.
Sligo did have plenty further chances besides the three they scored, with North having a great chance to take home the match ball, though goalkeeper Pieterse came off his line well to block his run through the gaping hole that was the visitors’ defense. Quigley was unlucky as he saw his dinked effort come back off the bar. Scouser Danny Ventre also deserves a mention as he was effervescent throughout in midfield and deservedly won the man of the match award.
Shamrock Rovers meanwhile are now eight points adrift of Sligo. Having lost 5-1 to St. Pat’s five weeks ago, this was Shams second heavy defeat of the season. Having been booed off following last Friday’s 2-2 draw with UCD, Stephen Kenny’s side now face a real battle to win the title from here.
With a European campaign also on the horizon, the Hoops have plenty to ponder and even more improvement to make. Having hit such unprecedented highs last season, there will be many wondering how things have fallen so sharply for Shamrock Rovers so quickly. Damien Richardson has hailed this (getting Rovers back to the top) as “Stephen Kenny’s biggest challenge as a manager.” It may well just be.