Sligo Rovers’ unbeaten run in competitive fixtures in 2013 came to an end at Hunky Dorys Park on Tuesday as Drogheda United took a 2-0 lead ahead of next Monday’s Setanta Sports Cup semi-final second leg.
Aaron Greene struck the woodwork for Sligo early on, but after Anthony Elding had missed a great chance a superb overhead effort by Gary O’Neill put the Boynesiders in front.
Mick Cooke’s side doubled the lead when David Cassidy’s brilliant chip gave them a two-goal cushion before half-time.
In the second half Sligo struggled to prise open a well-drilled Drogheda defence and the home side almost nicked a third goal in stoppage time with a Ryan Brennan header.
Sligo had signalled their intent after only five minutes when Aaron Greene turned sharply some 30 yards from goal and rifled a blistering shot against the crossbar.
The home side were clearly up for the game and on 15 minutes Derek Prendergast headed a David Cassidy corner goalwards and David Cawley was forced to nod the ball off the line.
Star striker Anthony Elding missed a gilt-edge chance to put the visitors ahead mid-way through the first half when Aaron Greene’s pinpoint cross picked out the striker and he headed well wide from the edge of the six-yard box.
It was a costly miss, for two minutes later Alan Byrne’s long throw came off Sligo defender Gavin Peers’ head and Gary O’Neill brought the home supporters to their feet with a superb overhead kick that nestled in the top corner of Gary Rogers’ net.
Gabriel Sava saved from a snap shot by Elding as the Bit O’Red looked for a quick response, while Gavin Brennan went close with a rasping 20-yard shot for the Drogs.
The momentum was with the home side, and they made it count on 35 minutes when Gavin Brennan flicked on Sava’s clearance towards Cassidy who spotted Rogers slightly off his line and chipped the former Drogheda netminder from 30 yards out to put the home side 2-0 ahead.
Clear-cut chances were at a premium after the restart, and with no sign of a Sligo breakthrough Pascal Millien and Lee Lynch replaced Kieran Djilali and Ryan Connolly.
A Lynch corner kick presented Peers with the visitors’ best opportunity of the half in the 77th minute, but the centre-half diverted his powerful header over the bar and Ryan Brennan almost put the tie out of Sligo’s reach in stoppage time with a glancing header that grazed the post.
DROGHEDA UNITED: Gabriel Sava; Brian Gannon, Alan Byrne (Alan McNally 87), Derek Prendergast, Shane Grimes; Declan O’Brien (Graham Rusk 82), David Cassidy, Ryan Brennan, Paul O’Conor, Gavin Brennan; Gary O’Neill.
SLIGO ROVERS: Gary Rogers; Alan Keane, Gavin Peers, Jeff Henderson, Iarfhlaith Davoren; Kieran Djilali (Pascal Millien 64), David Cawley, Danny Ventre, Aaron Greene, Ryan Connolly (Lee Lynch 72); Anthony Elding.
Referee: Mark Courtney (Antrim).