Sligo Rovers leap-frogged Derry City into fifth spot in the SSE Airtricity League Premier Division with a 3-1 win over Athlone Town at the Showgrounds. Following an extremely dull opening half, the game burst into life a minute into the second half when John Russell fired home for the opener. Sligo doubled their advantage on 83 courtesy of man of the match Evan McMillan who struck once more on 85 to extend Rovers' lead further.
Substitute Sam O'Connor grabbed a late consolation goal for Town on 88 as he tapped into an empty net following a well worked Athlone counter attack.
The Bit o'Red were going in search of their ninth league win of the season and should have taken an early lead just past the four minute mark. David Cawley's corner eventually fell to Kalen Spillane, but the Cork man couldn't keep his shot down from close range.
Sean Maguire could only find the grateful hands of Town goalkeeper Ryan Coulter with his effort from 20 yards on eight minutes.
Sligo boss John Coleman was then forced to withdraw Iarfhlaith Davoren due to injury five minutes later. Danny Ledwith taking his place at left back.
Chances were at a premium at the Church Hill Road venue during an extremely low key opening half. Athlone's Mark Hughes could only drag his shot from distance wide of Gary Rogers' goal on 28, while Philip Gorman's weak shot failed to trouble the Rovers number one nine minutes before the break.
Derek Prendergast did well to win the ball in the air from an Eric Foley corner two minutes from the interval, but he failed to nod his headed effort the right side of Rogers' near post.
Following a poor first half, the game burst into life with just a minute of the second period played. Athlone failed to clear the ball at the edge of their area before the ball fell to John Russell at the edge of the area. The Sligo midfielder lashing the ball past the helpless Coulter for his sixth goal of the season.
Eamon Zayed, who was making his first appearance in a Rovers shirt at the Showgrounds, saw his side-footed volley deflected away by an Athlone defender on the hour mark as the game became a much more pleasing spectacle. Cawley could only send his shot high into the Sligo night sky from the resulting corner.
The Mayo man shot over once more six minutes later as the FAI Cup holders continued to look comfortable.
Zayed almost latched on to the end of a Sean Maguire cross on 69, but the ball evaded the outstretched leg of the Libyan international at the back post.
Ledwith saw his snap shot from the edge of the Athlone box deflected away by a Town defender on 74, while Kealan Dillon bent his effort from inside the Sligo area around Rogers' post two minutes later.
For all Sligo's dominance, Keith Long's side never looked totally out of the game. Hughes' weak shot fizzed by Rogers' goal mouth on 78.
Ledwith went close with a well-hit free kick ten minutes from time, while substitute Ruairi Keating headed over from a David Cawley cross on 82.
Sligo doubled their lead shortly after. Russell's corner from the right was met with a well timed header from the towering Evan McMillan who nodded home his third league goal of the season.
McMillan doubled his tally on 85. The unmarked centre half side footing the ball past Coulter, this time from a Cawley corner.
The midlanders grabbed a consolation goal on 88 as Sam O'Connor finished into an empty net having been teed up by the well placed Gorman.
Sligo Rovers: Gary Rogers; Alan Keane, Kalen Spillane, Evan McMillan, Iarfhlaith Davoren (for Danny Ledwith 13); John Russell, David Cawley, Seamus Conneely; Sean Maguire, Eamon Zayed (for Regan Donelon 87), Daryl Kavanagh (for Ruairi Keating 72).
Athlone Town: Ryan Coulter; Dylan Haynes, Derek Prendergast, Alan Byrne (for Stephen Dunne 84), John Mulroy (for James O'Brien 61); Derek Doyle, Eric Foley, Kevin Knight, Kealan Dillon; Philip Gorman, Mark Hughes (for Sam O'Connor 79).
Referee: Ray Mathews.