Sligo Rovers opened up a four point lead at the top of the Airtricity League Premier Division on Tuesday night when they proved too strong for Dundalk when the sides met in Oriel Park. Anthony Elding continued his impressive start to the season as he struck for his fourth league goal of the season, in just his third game, while Raffaele Cretaro and Gavin Peers were also on the scoresheet for the defending champions in a 3-1 win.
Cretaro opened the scoring for the visitors in the third minute when he drilled a shot between Peter Cherrie’s legs meaning the Tubercurry native has now scored in 12 different seasons for the Bit o’ Red. That goal silenced the large home crowd (2,054) as Rovers took control of the game and bossed matters in midfield where the axis of Seamus Conneely, David Cawley and Lee lynch were very impressive. The Rovers midfield bossed matters meaning the likes of Richie Towell and former Rovers player John Dillon were unable to assert any influence on the game.
The previous Sligo Rovers victories in the league came against Derry City and Bray Wanderers and while they were deserved wins they were certainly not flawless performances. However, last Tuesday was a much more positive performance with Louth native Ross Gaynor causing all manner of problems when he advanced from midfield.
Five minutes before half-time the visitors doubled their lead when the unmarked Gavin Peers got a touch to Gaynor’s free kick although Dundalk goalkeeper Peter Cherrie may feel he should have been able to do more to prevent the shot from finding its way into the goal.
The second half began brightly with both sides eager to play open, passing football. Gaynor’s individual effort brought a save from Cherrie while at the other end Gary Rogers made a wonderful save to deny Kurtis Byrne’s headed effort.
With Dundalk sensing they may still be able to take something from the game Rovers struck for their goal of the game. Raffaele Cretaro was afforded too much time on the right wing and his inch perfect delivery was clinically dispatched by Anthony Elding who headed past Cherrie.
In front of a large support the home side continued to attack and cause problems for Rovers and eventually got the goal they deserved when Kurtis Byrne unleashed a venomous half-volley from 25 yards that flew perfectly into the top corner of the goal. That goal was the first of the season to be conceded by Gary Rogers after four clean sheets in league and Setanta Cup matches but there was nothing the Meath man could do to keep out Byrne’s effort.
Dundalk continued to seek a way back into the game but there was to be no further addition to the scoring as the visitors held firm to maintain their 100% start to the new season and in doing so opened up a four point cushion at the top of the table.
Next up for Sligo Rovers is the visit of Limerick FC who are back competing in the top flight after a 19 year absence. Kick-off in The Showgrounds on Saturday night is at 7.45pm.
Dundalk: Peter Cherrie; John Sullivan, Andy Boyle, Dane Massey, Eoghan Osborne; John Dillon (Darren Meenan 65), Richie Towell, Stephen McDonnell (Chris Shields 70); Patrick Hoban (Vinny Faherty 57), Keith Ward, Kurtis Byrne. Unused subs: Tiarnan Mulvenna, Mark Rossiter, Aaron Shanahan (GK).
Sligo Rovers: Gary Rogers; Alan Keane, Gavin Peers (Jeff Henderson 55), Evan McMillan, Ross Gaynor; Raffaele Cretaro (Ryan Connolly 84), David Cawley, Lee Lynch, Seamus Conneely (Kieran Djilali 73), Aaron Greene; Anthony Elding.
Referee: Paul Tuite.