Sligo Rovers moved to second spot in the Airtricity League Premier Division with a comfortable 2-0 win over Shelbourne at the Showgrounds on Friday evening.
First half goals from Danny Ventre and Iarfhlaith Davoren were enough to see off a Shels side who continue to languish at the foot of the table.
Evan McMillan returned to the Bit o’Red’s bench from a lengthy lay-off due to a knee injury, while Ross Gaynor continues his time in the stands courtesy of a similar problem.
The champions made two changes to the side which enjoyed a 3-0 win over UCD last weekend. David Cawley and Raffaele Cretaro returning to the Sligo side in place of Joseph Ndo and Aaron Greene.
Johnny McDonnell's Shelbourne side were without Glenn Cronin, Paul Crowley, Brian Shorthall, Mark Leech, Adam Hanlon and Jack Memery through injury. Meanwhile, Robert Bayly missed out through suspension.
The Reds were however, buoyed by the return of Robert Cornwall who returned from suspension. Cornwall was one of five changes to the side which suffered a 3-0 defeat at the hands of Bohemians last time out with Jamie McGlynn, Paul Andrews, Brian Gannon and Derek Doyle also returning to the Shels starting eleven.
Both sides went into the game needing all three points for contrasting reasons. Alan Keane went close for Rovers on six minutes, just seconds before Cawley flashed his effort wide of Lee Murphy’s goal as the champions went in search of a win which would keep them in touch with both Saint Pat’s and Dundalk who occupied top and second spot respectively.
Sligo continued to dominated the opening exchanges. Lee Lynch failed to make the most of the space he found behind the Tolka Park outfit’s defence on 12 minutes after Danny North set him up just yards from goal. The Limerick man’s weak shot dribbling wide of Murhpy’s goal.
North was next to go close on the quarter hour mark. Cretaro’s cross to the back post was met by an outstretched leg from the former Pat’s man but he couldn’t get the neccesary direction behind his effort to steer the ball goal side of the post.
The Rovers pressure told on 25 minutes. Kieran Djilali’s cross from the right caused panic inside the Shels six yard box and captain Danny Ventre stabbed the ball past Murphy for his first league goal since September 2011.
Both North and Cretaro went close to doubling the westerners’ lead on 29 and 33 minutes respectively.
Lynch had to be alert to take the ball from the feet of Sean Brennan after he was gifted the ball by Cretaro on 34 minutes. The Sligo midfielder doing well to rob the ball from the Shelbourne attacker just as he steadied himself to shoot from ten yards.
Sligo had the ball in the Shels net on 39 minutes only for referee Anthony Buttimer to have adjudged Alan Keane to have fouled a Shels defender just before he slotted the ball home.
The home side doubled their lead two minutes before the break. Iarfhlaith Davoren’s shot from the edge of the area took an unfortunate deflection off Paul Andrews before diverting into Murphy’s goal. The strike was only Davoren’s second goal for the Connacht side.
Buttimer then denied the away side an opportunity to level the game from the penalty spot just moments later. Lee Murtagh stepped over Brennan’s cross before the ball eventually reached Brian Gannon whose shot was blocked down by what looked like the hand of Gavin Peers, but the official showed little interest in awarding McDonnell’s side the spot-kick.
With the first half providing Sligo with plenty of chances, the second period had to wait until the 58th minute for the first opportunity of note from either side. Keane did well to pick up a loose ball in the centre of the park before making his way into the Shels box only to see Murphy deal well with his low drive.
The Dubliners had their first sight at goal of the second half on 68 minutes. Murtagh did well to beat Jeff Henderson to the ball before unleashing a low shot which Sligo net-minder Gary Rogers had to push away.
Djilai went close on 70 minutes with a speculative shot from distance. Substitute David McMillan was denied from close range three minutes later by Murphy. Peers then hit the post from the resulting corner.
Shels were unfortuante not to half Rovers’ lead on 75 minutes. Peers conceded possesion on the half-way line before the ball made its way to Derek Doyle who saw his attempted lob end up on the roof of Rogers’ net.
Shelbourne substitute Dylan Connelly flashed his 82nd minute shot wide of the Rovers goal as Shels attempted to salvage something from the Showgrounds.
Rogers then had to deflect an Adam O’Connor volley away for a corner a minute later as the Dublin side continued to worry the majority of the 1,464 in attendance.
Doyle then saw his header tipped over by Rogers in the last minute of injury time. This heralded the breaking of a Rovers club record as the Bit o’Red have now gone 588 minutes without conceding a goal in the Showgrounds.
Sligo Rovers: Gary Rogers; Alan Keane, Gavin Peers (Evan McMillan 78), Jeff Henderson, Iarfhliath Davoren; Kieran Djilali (Seamus Conneely 88), Lee Lynch, David Cawley (David McMillan 70), Danny Ventre, Raffaele Cretaro; Danny North.
Subs not used: Matthew Gledhill, Aaron Greene, Anthony Elding, Pascal Millien.
Shelbourne: Lee Murphy; Pat Flynn, Paul Andrews, Adam O’Connor, Derek Doyle; Robert Cornwall (Dylan Connelly.67), Brian Gannon, Stephen Hurely, Jamie McGlynn; Sean Brennan (Carl Walshe 79); Lee Murtagh (Darren Tinnelly 84).
Subs not used: Niall Burdon, Graham Gartland, Stephen Sheerin, Ian Ryan.