Sligo Rovers’ search for their first League of Ireland title in 35 years hit a stumbling block last Friday evening as they could only manage a scoreless draw with second from bottom Bray Wanderers at the Carlisle Grounds.
Despite enjoying large amounts of possession, Ian Baraclough’s side lacked their usual bite and were left frustrated by a plucky Wanderers side who themselves, were unlucky on occasion not to steal all three points. Rovers made two changes from the team that beat Dundalk two Monday’s previous as Jeff Henderson deputised for the suspended Gavin Peers at centre half.
David Cawley returned to take his place in the centre of midfield which was left vacant by Seamus Conneely who slotted in at right back in place of Alan Keane who underwent surgery last week on a metatarsal injury he recently picked up.
Despite it being a thoroughly entertaining encounter from start to finish, it took ten minutes before either side saw sight of an opener. Sligo’s Mark Quigley, last month’s Soccer Writer’s Player of the Month caught Bray defender Adam Mitchell unawares and managed to get on the end of a Ross Gaynor ball from the back. Quigley, not in full control of the ball, was unlucky to see his effort drag narrowly wide of the Bray post.
Three minutes later, Sligo had the first of three penalty claims turned down by referee Anthony Buttimer when Danny O’Connor’s outstretched leg impeded Quigley, moments before Raffaele Cretaro was adjudged by Buttimer to have gone down too easy inside the Bray area after a clumsy challenge from Dane Massey.
Quigley went close again with a half an hour played as, with his back to goal, the former Dundalk striker almost found Darren Quigley unawares from 20 yards, the latter doing well to tip the former’s shot over the crossbar.
Sligo’s Gary Rogers ended the first period the busier of the two ‘keepers and was called into action for the first time eleven minutes from the break when he had to be alert to get behind Jason Byrne’s low drive.
Rogers was on hand on two more occasions before the break as he made two more fantastic saves from Daire Doyle and Kieran ‘Marty’ Waters.
Bray’s purple patch continued early into the second half as Shane O’Connor’s shot went narrowly wide just a minute before Cretaro had another penalty shout waved away.
It took the FAI Cup holders until the 69th minute to produce another goal-scoring opportunity, Quigley controlling a Gaynor cross from the left, but failing to steer the ball toward its intended target just yards from goal.
Ian Baraclough introduced tricky winger Pascal Millien to proceedings on 71 minutes, a move that almost paid off instantly. Receiving the ball on the wing, the Haiti international drove at the Seagulls defence, finding space behind the full back but only managed to flash his shot across Darren Quigley’s goalmouth.
Both sides had chances to claim the three points late on as Byrne and Waters both went close for Pat Devlin’s side, while Rovers’ Lee Lynch almost grabbed the headlines seconds before the final whistle. Darren Quigley did enough to parry David Cawley’s drive from distance into the path of Lynch who couldn’t get enough power behind his header, the Bray shot-stopper claiming the ball with ease.
Sligo welcome Derry City to the Showgrounds this Saturday evening, kick-off is 7.45pm.
Darren Quigley; Shane O’Connor, Danny O’Connor, Adam Mitchell, Dane Massey; John Mulroy (Adam Hanlon 84), Daire Doyle, Dean Zambra, Sean Houston, Kieran Marty Waters; Jason Byrne.
Gary Rogers; Seamus Conneelly, Jason McGuinness, Jeff Henderson (Ryan Connolly 85), Ross Gaynor; Joseph Ndo, Danny Ventre (Pascal Millien 71); Lee Lynch, David Cawley, Raffaele Cretaro; Mark Quigley.