A comprehensive win, a clean sheet and a safe passage into the third round of the EA Sports Cup was as much as Sligo Rovers manager Ian Baraclough could have hoped for as his side registered a comprehensive victory over Mervue United on Monday night last in The Showgrounds.
Two goals from Anthony Elding, a penalty in the opening half and a stunning strike from 25 yards in injury time were the main highlights of what was a routine victory, with the home side particularly dominant after the break. The fact that Sligo native Barry O’Mahony was issued with a red card for a handball midway through the opening half only made the task facing the Galway club considerably tougher.
After the disappointment of last Saturday night’s game against Dundalk being called off due to a waterlogged pitch, Baraclough perhaps played a slightly different team against Mervue that he would have originally planned. Centre-back Gavin Peers and midfielder David Cawley were both due to serve their suspensions for accumulating four yellow cards against Dundalk but instead that came into effect for Monday night’s game and Jeff Henderson and club captain Danny Ventre came into the team.
After a slow start the first chance of the game fell to Anthony Elding in the 14th minute but his header was just over the Mervue crossbar. The deadlock was broken four minutes later when Elding rose well to meet a Joseph Ndo corner. However, Barry O’Mahony prevented Elding’s goalbound effort from going over the line by using his hand and referee Tomas Connolly had little option but to award a penalty and a red card.
The resulting penalty was dispatched emphatically by Elding but chances were proving to be at a premium as the game failed to generate too much excitement during the opening half.
Although they led by just a solitary goal, Rovers bossed the second half to such an extent that Mervue never looked likely to cause an upset while Rovers looked capable of scoring every time they attacked. The second goal the home support craved arrived on the hour mark as Evan McMillan rose highest to meet Joseph Ndo’s corner with his head.
Although there was still 30 minutes remaining, such was the lack of an attacking threat posed by 10 man Mervue, the result was now secure and Baraclough was afforded the luxury of being able to withdraw the talismanic Joseph Ndo and Raffaele Cretaro who is returning to full fitness following injury.
It was to get worse for the Mervue defence who conceded a third goal 10 minutes later after they failed to deal with Alan Keane’s cross and after a goalmouth scramble Danny Ventre bundled the ball over the bar from close range.
Further chances to extend the lead came and went with Kieran Djilali and Aaron Greene both particularly unlucky to see their respective efforts crash off the Mervue crossbar after showing good footwork in the opposition box.
There was to be time for one more goal as in the 91st minute Anthony Elding nonchalantly struck from 25 yards and his unstoppable effort flew beyond the reach of Mervue keeper Conor Gleeson and into the top corner to put the gloss on what was a very comfortable victory.
On Friday next, May 24, Rovers return to league action as they make the journey south to play Limerick in the splendid Thomond Park and will be looking to secure three points that will maintain their position at the top of the Airtricity League Premier Division.
Gary Rogers; Alan Keane (Marty Owens, 80), Jeff Henderson, Evan McMillan, Ross Gaynor; Raffaele Cretaro (Liam Martin, 70), Joseph Ndo (Kieran Djilali, 70), Lee Lynch, Danny Ventre, Aaron Greene; Anthony Elding.
Conor Gleeson; Joe Woods, Stephen Walshe, Barry O’Mahony, Michael Sweeney; Paul Sinnott, Gary Kelly, Gary Curran (Noel Varley, 38), Brendan Lavelle; Alex Lee (Ryan Manning, HT), Ross Kenny (Oscar Simbanda, 67).
Referee: Tomas Connolly