Sligo Rovers played out a thouroughly entertaining scoreless draw with Cork City in the SSE Airtricity League at the Showgrounds on Sunday. Both sides produced several good goal scoring opportunities during an enthralling tie.
Danny North's vicious free kick early in the second half almost gave the Bit o'Red the lead only for Cork goalkeeper Mark McNulty to acrobatically tip the ball onto his crossbar.
Meanwhile, Garry Buckley's 92nd minute header almost stole the full quota of points for City but the midfielder was massively unfortunate to see his header bounce back off Gary Rogers' crossbar.
The home side were without Jeff Henderson and Joseph Ndo through injury, while Eric Odhiambo served the second of his two match suspension. Coleman made two changes to the team which was held scoreless in Lithuania in the Europa League on Thursday night. Kalen Spillane and Aaron Greene returned for the westerners. Long term injury victim Gavin Peers was deemed fit enough to take his place on the bench.
Cork meanwhile were without injured trio Michael Rafter, Darren Murphy and Gearoid Morrisey. Manager John Caulfield made two adjustments to the team which beat Limerick last week. Débutante Cillian Morrison and former Sligo full back Iarfhlaith Davoren took their places in the starting eleven in place of Morrisey and Liam Kearney respectively.
Rovers were looking to gift new boss John Coleman a win on his first outing in the Showgrounds dugout. And they almost got their wish following a even opening period. Cork had to rely on a fortuitous block from a City defender to redirect Evan McMillan's goal bound header from an Aaron Greene free on 13 minutes.
Sligo were on top for the following quarter of an hour of play but couldn't take advantage. Raffaele Cretaro shot over on 18, while Greene saw his effort from the angle squeeze narrowly past McNulty's far post shortly after.
Cork went into the game occupying second spot in the league and began to show flashes of just why over the next period. Brian Lenihan sprinted past Seamus Conneely on the touchline on 26 before finding Morrison whose shot was blocked away by the foot of a Sligo defender.
Billy Dennehy made the most of Kieran Djilali's failure to keep possession after the Englishman was robbed on the wing. But the former Shamrock Rovers winger couldn't keep his bending shot from the edge of the area low enough to test Rovers goalkeeper Rogers.
Morrison spurned the Leesiders' best chance of the first half six minutes from the break, when he forced Rogers into a fine save after the former UCD man was afforded plenty of space inside the Sligo area. The Meath man performed similar heroics two minutes later as he palmed away Colin Healy's drive from 20 yards.
Danny North almost gave the FAI Cup holders the lead on two occasions early in the second half. The first came on 47 as Greene's initial shot was deflected into the path of the 26-year-old, but McNulty did well to push away his effort. McNulty repeated the trick on 49 when he did just enough to divert North's free-kick from distance onto his crossbar.
Substitute Dave O'Leary's twisting shot from the edge of the area, which ballooned over the Sligo goal on 63 was the closest the Rebels came to finding an opener during the early exchanges of the second half.
Darren Dennehy did well to get in front of McMillan's glancing header from a Djilali corner on 70, while Djilali himself stung the palms of McNulty with a well hit effort moments later.
Rovers went close once more with 14 minutes remaining as Greene combined with both North and Cretaro. But the Dubliner couldn't keep down his curling strike from 20 yards.
Conneely missed the target on 87 with a thunderous right footed drive, while Mark O'Sullivan's powerful header was well held by Rogers down the other end a minute later.
Caulfield's side almost stole the points on three separate occasions at the death. O'Leary produced a fine full-stretch save from Rogers on the stroke of full time and O'Sullivan's point blank header was held by Rogers from the resulting corner.
But it was Buckley who came the closest to securing the three points for the Munster side two minutes into injury time. Substitute Liam Kearney sent across a superb cross which cleared a handful of Rovers defenders but Buckley was unfortunate to see his header come back off the crossbar.
Sligo Rovers: Gary Rogers; Alan Keane, Evan McMillan, Kalen Spillane, Seamus Conneely; Aaron Greene, John Russell, David Cawley, Kieran Djilali, Raffaele Cretaro, Danny North (for Ruairi Keating 87).
Subs not used: Richard Brush, Ross Gaynor, Regan Donelon, Paul O'Conor, Sean Maguire, Gavin Peers.
Cork City: Mark McNulty; Brian Lenihan, John Dunleavy, Dan Murray, Darren Dennehy; Billy Dennehy (for Liam Kearney 73), Garry Buckley, Colin Healy, Iarfhlaith Davoren (for Dave O'Leary 34), Cillian Morrison (for John O'Flynn HT); Mark O'Sullivan.
Subs not used: Josh O'Shea, Rob Lehane, Kevin O'Brien. Darren Murphy.
Referee: Neil Doyle (Dublin).