Sligo Rovers gained some revenge for the opening night defeat in Limerick when they produced their best performance of the season to date to record an emphatic victory over the same opposition last Saturday in The Showgrounds.
Sligo Rovers 3
New manager Gerard Lyttle opted to start with club captain Craig Roddan on the substitutes bench and it proved to be the correct decision as John Russell and Gary Boylan were instrumental in the centre of the pitch.
The defence, which has been vulnerable all season, looked considerably more assured on Saturday last, with Brazilian forward Rodrigo Tosi, who scored a hat-trick for Limerick on the opening night of the season having a much more difficult 90 minutes last Saturday than was the case back in February.
The Bit O'Red couldn't have asked for a better start as there was barely two minutes on the clock when Kyle Callan-McFadden rose at the back post to meet a John Russell free kick. His header caused panic in the disjointed Limerick defence and Raff Cretaro was on hand to half-volley the loose ball into the top corner of the goal. It proved to be a landmark strike for the Tubbercurry native as he is now the second highest goalscorer in the club's history.
The lead was almost doubled in the sixth minute when Kieran Sadlier cut in from the left wing before shooting but the former Ireland U-21 international was extremely unlucky to see his shot come back off the crossbar.
The home supporters couldn't have been overly confident given what they have already witnessed this season but their nerves were helped considerably when Jonah Ayunga doubled Rovers' advantage with arguably the easiest goal he will ever score. A long clearance caused panic in the Limerick defence with Limerick goalkeeper Brendan Clarke coming to the edge of his box in an attempt to gather the ball. However, he appeared to completely misread the situation as Cretaro won possession and squared the ball to Ayunga who rolled the ball into the net from the edge of the box.
Leading 2-0 at the interval there was still a feeling that a Limerick goal early in the second half would ask questions of a Rovers team that has looked devoid of confidence all season. However, such concerns were put to bed within two minutes of the restart as Kieran Sadlier struck for his sixth goal of the season.
Kyle Callan-McFadden's speculative clearance was controlled expertly by Cretaro and then played to the right wing where Liam Martin raced to the endline before delivering an excellent cross that evaded the Limerick defence. Sadlier found himself free at the back post and from an acute angle he slotted the ball past Clarke to all but ensure all three points for the home side.
Rovers new boss Gerard Lyttle will have been pleased with the work rate present in the team as they pressed high, ensuring Limerick who have aspirations of qualifying for Europe this season, never really looked like getting back into the game.
The win lifts Rovers up to eight in the league but they will know that with three teams facing relegation, the battle for survival could continue until the end of the season.
Next up for the Bit O'Red is a trip to Oriel Park where they will face Dundalk on Friday evening. While it may appear a daunting prospect, Dundalk have endured a difficult start to the season having lost five of their opening 12 games and Rovers will no doubt be keen to continue the recent upturn in results and performances.
Sligo Rovers: Micheál Schlingermann, Tobi Adebayo-Rowling, Mick Leahy, Kyle Callan-McFadden, Regan Donelon, Liam Martin, Gary Boylan, John Russell, Kieran Sadlier (Mikey Place 88), Raffaele Cretaro (Craig Roddan 78), Jonah Ayunga (Mathew Stevens 86).
Limerick: Brendan Clarke; Shaun Kelly, Robbie Williams, Tony Whitehead, Tommy Robson, Dean Clarke (John O'Flynn 46), Shane Duggan, Paul O'Conor (Bastien Hery 63), Chiedozie Ogbene, Lee Lynch (Chris Mulhall 80); Rodrigo Tosi.