Sligo Rovers maintained their four point lead at the top of the Airtricity League Premier Division at the weekend despite a disappointing 1-1 draw with Bray Wanderers at the Showgrounds on Saturday afternoon.
Rovers needed a 63rd minute strike from Alan Keane goal to level the game after Bray striker Jason Byrne capatalised on an Iarfhlaith Davoren mistake just four minutes into the second period. Bray had to play out the closing stages of the tie with ten men after centre half Adam Mitchell was dismissed for a second yellow card in the 91st minute. Second placed St Patrick’s Athletic failed to make the most of Rovers’ shortcomings as they had to rely on a last minute Pat Flynn equaliser to draw 1-1 with Shamrock Rovers on Sunday afternoon.
The Bit o’Red were without centre half Jason McGuinness for the game through injury, while Alan Keane returned from suspension. Recent acquisitions Seamus Conneely and Jeff Henderson made the bench, but fellow new boy Ryan Connolly was unavailable due to personal reasons.
Bray travelled West without Dave Webster, while Sean Houston served a one match ban. New signing Kevin O’Connor made his first appearance for the Seagulls, while former Sligo trialist Brendan King made the bench after he signed on with the Wicklow club last week.
Rovers enjoyed large periods of domination without really causing Pat Devlin’s side any real harm, although Wanderers did have what looked a genuine penalty shout turned down with only three minutes played. Joseph Ndo upended Bray winger Kieran ‘Marty’ Waters at the edge of the area, but referee Graham Kelly showed little interest in entertaining any Bray pleas. League top goalscorer Danny North had Sligo’s first look at goal with 13 minutes played when he looped his header over Bray ‘keeper Darren Quigley’s crossbar.
Both Ross Gaynor and Raffaele Cretaro had sights at goal, before Sligo had to rely on goalkeeper Gary Rogers on 25 minutes as he spread himself in front of Byrne as the former Bohemians man he bore down on goal. The former St Pat’s net-minder doing enough to deflect the ball away from danger.
The current FAI Cup holders almost went behind through an unlikely source as captain Danny Ventre was lucky to see his sliced clearance roll past the post on 28 minutes. Four minutes later, Gavin Peers saw his header blocked off the line by Bray winger John Mulroy.
Bray went ahead just four minutes into the second half through two Sligo errors. Ventre’s misjudged clearance in front of the area caught Iarfhlaith Davoren by surprise and his miss-kick at the edge of the 18 gave Byrne the chance to steal the ball, and drive it past Rogers.
Sligo introduced winger Pascal Millien and striker Mark Quigley in an attempt to rescue the points. This change bore fruit on 63 minutes when Quigley found Alan Keane down the right. The Galway native showed fantastic composure to cut inside, beat two Bray defenders and squeeze the ball between Darren Quigley and his front post. The league leaders dominated the final half hour but couldn’t break a sturdy Wanderers rearguard. North had a wonderful opportunity to claim the points when he shrugged off his marker at the back post, but couldn’t reach Millien’s driven cross.
The Showgrounds outfit now face Derry City in The Brandywell tomorrow (Friday) night at 7.05pm, before making the long trip to Slovakia to take on Spartak Trnava in their Second Round First Leg tie at Stadion Antona Malatinskeho in South West Slovakia, next Thursday at 7pm Irish time.
Sligo Rovers: Gary Rogers; Alan Keane, Gavin Peers, Danny Ventre (C), Iarfhlaith Davoren; Romuald Boco, Joseph Ndo, David Cawley, Ross Gaynor; Raffaele Cretaro, Danny North.
Subs: Ciaran Kelly, Jeff Henderson, Seamus Conneely (for Ndo 79’), Lee Lynch, John Dillon, Mark Quigley (for Cretaro 60’), Pascal Millien (for Gaynor 60’).
Bray Wanderers: Darren Quigley; Dane Massey, Adam Mitchell, Danny O’Connor (C), Adam Hanlon; Kevin O’Connor, Kieran Marty Waters, Shane O’Connor. Dean Zambra, John Mulroy; Jason Byrne.
Subs: Daire Doyle (for Hanlon 73’), Kevin Knight (for Waters 77’), Graham Kelly, Pat Seery, Brendan King, Brian Kane, Conor Butler.