Sligo Rovers reclaimed top spot in the Airtricity League Premier Division with a 3-0 win over Derry City at the Showgrounds on Monday afternoon. A first half strike from Lee Lynch was followed by second half goals from David Cawley and a Ross Gaynor spot kick.
The Candystripes ended the game with ten men after Shane McEleney was dismissed midway through the second half in the lead up to Gaynor's penalty.
Things could have been so much different for the FAI Cup holders had Barry McNamee been awarded a first half penalty with the game still scoreless. The young winger looked to have been taken down by Rovers goalkeeper Gary Rogers but was subsequently booked for what referee Paul Tuite viewed as a dive inside the Sligo area.
Rovers were without Danny North, Seamus Conneely (both knee), Ciaran Kelly (fractured sternum), Raffaele Cretaro (thigh) and Anthony Elding (suspension).
Ross Gaynor returned from a one game ban following a red card he picked up against Drogheda, while Iarfhlaith Davoren also took his place in the starting eleven having missed Sligo's last two games through suspension.
Derry made the journey south without Paddy Kavanagh (hamstring) and Kevin Deery (knee). Ruaidhri Higgins (hip) was a late withdrawal for Declan Devine's cup holders. Sean Houston and Patrick McEleney returned to the City team having missed last week's victory over Limerick.
A competitive opening saw the league champions almost take the lead on seven minutes. Some good inter-play between Alan Keane and Lee Lynch resulted in the latter finding Cawley whose low shot was deflected away by the feet of Derry goalkeeper Ger Doherty.
Sean Houston was responsible for the Candystripes' first sight at goal on 14 minutes, but his pot-shot from 20 yards didn't have the necessary power or accuracy behind it to trouble Rogers in the Sligo nets. Three minutes later, City's Rory Patterson muscled Evan McMillan off the ball before finding strike partner Mark Griffin in space, but the former Dundalk man's drive from the edge of the area was off target and rolled harmlessly past the post.
Derry had what seemed legitimate calls for a penalty turned down on 20 minutes when Barry McNamee took the ball past Rogers only for the keeper to impede the winger as he took the ball past him. Referee Paul Tuite showed little interest despite City's protestations and instead showed McNamee a yellow card for simulation.
Patterson went close six minutes later when, again Patterson showed good strength to take the ball away from the feet of McMillan. He turned inside but was unlucky to see Rogers touch away his low drive at his front post.
Cawley went close on 29 minutes as Pascal Millien did well to control Gaynor's cross from the left. The Haitian international then teed up Cawley whose volley sailed narrowly over the City crossbar.
The lightning pace of the game continued and Madden's cross to the back post just after the half hour mark was met with a ferocious shot from Patterson, but the Strabane man - unmarked - failed to worry Rogers as he skied his shot over the crossbar.
38 minutes had elapsed when the stalemate was eventually broken and Sligo took the lead. Keane's low cross from the right was originally meant for Millien ten yards from goal, but the winger left the ball to Lynch who side-footed home to give the champions the lead at the break.
The champions almost doubled their lead three minutes into the second period when Greene latched on to a misplaced pass by Barry Molloy which was intended for Doherty, The former Shamrock Rovers winger - who was playing as a stand-in centre forward - stole in and saw his shot touched onto the post by Doherty and back into play, before the danger was cleared by a Derry defender.
Rovers doubled their lead on 54 minutes when Gavin Peers' long ball was controlled by Lynch in the centre of the park who in turn supplied Millien. The winger's cross to the near post was met by Cawley who produced a wonderful turn come shot beyond the hapless Doherty.
Greene went close again for Sligo in the 58th minute but he couldn't steer Gaynor's pin-point cross from the left past Doherty moments before Patterson spurned a golden opportunity to force his side back into the game. Peers' foul on substitute Michael Duffy resulted in McNamee's free causing all sorts of confusion in the Rovers penalty area as both McMillan and Keane failed to clear their lines. Possesion eventually fell to Patterson, who from close range fired over Rogers crossbar yet again.
The spotlight again fell on referee Tuite with 67 minutes played when he dismissed Shane McEleney for a tackle from behind as he upended Cawley inside the Derry area. Gaynor stepped up to send Doherty the wrong way and sent the Bit o'Red into a commanding lead.
Rovers substitute Liam Martin almost made it four on 79 minutes as he blocked down Doherty's attempted clearance from a Dermot McCaffrey back pass. The ball beat the Derry 'keeper but bounced back into play after it struck the bottom of the post.
Both Molloy and man of the match Joseph Ndo went close for their sides in the closing stages. Molloy's shot from 20 yards was matched by Rogers seven minutes from the end, while Ndo's attempted lob at the death floated agonisingly wide of the Derry post with Doherty beaten all ends up.
Sligo Rovers: Gary Rogers; Alan Keane, Gavin Peers, Evan McMillan (for Jeff Henderson 88), Iarfhlaith Davoren; Pascal Millien, Lee Lynch (for Danny Ventre 73), David Cawley, Joseph Ndo, Ross Gaynor (for Liam Martin 77); Aaron Greene.
Subs not used: Adam Murphy, Kieran Djilali, Ryan Connolly, Raffaele Cretaro.
Derry City: Gerard Doherty; Simon Madden, Ryan McBride, Shane McEleney, Dermot McCaffrey; Patrick McEleney (for Michael Duffy 62), Sean Houston, Barry Molloy, Barry McNamee; Rory Patterson, Mark Griffin (for Michael Rafter 62).
Subs not used: James Gallagher, Stewart Greacen, Ryan Curran, Tony McNamee, Conal Kelly.
Sent off: Shane McEleney 67
Referee: Paul Tuite (Dublin)