The dream of a first league title for Sligo Rovers since 1977 is a lot closer to becoming a reality after the Bit O’Red recorded two convincing wins in quick succession.
On Friday last Rovers travelled to Tolka Park to face Shelbourne and emerged with a deserved 3-1 win after early goals from centre-backs Jason McGuinness and Gavin Peers effectively ended the game as a contest while on Monday last the challenge of UCD was seen off with a 3-0 win in The Showgrounds to leave Rovers eight points clear at the top of the Airtricity Premier Division.
Ian Baraclough will be keen to ensure none of his players begin to believe the talk that the Airtricity Premier Division title is destined for The Showgrounds but even he must be pleased with how his team is placed with just nine games of the season remaining.
When top scorer Danny North suffered a cruciate ligament injury against Spartak Trnava it was feared that Rovers’ league challenge may become derailed and the question was asked where the goals would come from but in the subsequent weeks the goals have spread throughout the team while the form of Mark Quigley has been nothing short of breath taking.
The game against Shelbourne began in the best possible manner for the large travelling support with Jason McGuinness getting his head to Ross Gaynor’s free kick in the third minute to settle any nerves and the lead was doubled in the 16th minute when his defensive partner, Gavin Peers, sidefooted another Gaynor delivery to the Shelbourne goal.
Those early goals allowed Rovers play with confidence and impose themselves on the game. Chances for Millien, Conneely and Cawley could have extended the visitor’s lead but ultimately it was left to debutant Liam Buchanan to provide a moment of magic that led to the third goal as moments after coming off the bench Buchanan was fouled in the Shelbourne. The Scot wanted to take the spot kick but with the form he is in at the moment there was to be no denying Mark Quigley who dispatched the ball to the corner of Chris Bennion’s goal.
Paddy Kavanagh scored a late consolation for Sligo Rovers but Rovers had done enough to consolidate their lead at the top of the table.
Three days later Rovers were back in action and a crowd of 2,375 descended on The Showgrounds for the visit of UCD hoping to see the Bit O’Red extend their lead at the top. Another excellent display meant the visitors never really imposed themselves on the game and once again it was Mark Quigley who was central to much of what was good about the home side’s performance.
After scoring the opening goal, Quigley turned provider with a wonderful pass that exposed the UCD defence allowing Pascal Millien to use his lightening pace and race through on goal. Millien applied the finishing touch to double Rovers’ lead but the Haitian international was injured in the process of scoring that goal.
The three points were secured in the second half when Romauld Boco scored a stunning goal to ensure the large crowd went home happy.
Next up for Sligo Rovers is a trip to Richmond Park on Friday night to face St Patrick’s Athletic and another victory would edge Rovers’ even closer to that elusive league title.