Rovers restore five point lead
Sligo Rovers restored their five point lead at the summit of the Airtricity League Premier Division following a 2-0 win over Cork City at the Showgrounds on Saturday afternoon. A 37 minute Lee Lynch strike coupled with a late Anthony Elding penalty was enough to hand all three points to the reigning league champions.
The Bit o' Red were without Joseph Ndo (hand), Seamus Conneely (knee) and Danny North (knee ligament) while U19 goalkeeper Adam Murphy took his place on the bench in place of injured substitute net minder Ciaran Kelly (fractured sternum).
City travelled to the Yeats County without both Kevin and Dan Murray along with Brian Lenihan due to injury, while Darren Dennehy served the second of a two match ban. Neal Horgan passed a late fitness test to take his place on the Rebels' bench.
Cork enjoyed the better of the opening exchanges and had their first sight at goal on three minutes as Daryl Horgan's shot sailed narrowly over Gary Rogers' crossbar.
Two minutes later, Raffaele Cretaro found the league's top scorer Elding inside the Cork danger zone but the towering centre-half failed to make contact with the ball with the goal at his mercy, allowing the City defence cleared their lines with ease. .
Horgan was involved again on eight minutes as he met Danny Murphy's drive to the back post, but Jeff Henderson did enough to put off the former Sligo man just before he pulled the trigger.
It was Sligo's Ross Gaynor who went close next. His 18th minutes free from 30 yards was pushed away by Cork goalkeeper Mark McNulty.
Both Denis Behan and Shane Duggan went close for Tommy Dunne's side on 22 and 27 minutes respectively but Rogers was equal to both attempts.
Sligo eventually broke the deadlock with eight minutes of the opening period remaining, Ryan Connolly's cross was cleared by the City defence before it fell to the waiting Lynch, who struck a low volley past McNulty from 18 yards to give the champions the lead.
Rovers almost doubled their lead two minutes before half-time. Aaron Greene's initial shot was parried away by McNulty only to fall into the path of the oncoming Cretaro who was denied by a fantastic block from the City net minder as the ball looked set to nestle in the back of the his net.
McNulty was on hand again five minutes into the second period after Daryl Kavangah was adjudged to have fouled Alan Keane at the edge of the Cork area. Gaynor's free looked set for the top corner but 32-year-old expertly plucked the ball from the air at full stretch to deny the Ardee native.
The Leesiders almost claimed an equaliser on 53 minutes when Adam Rundle's pull back from the end line was met by Kavanagh, but the former Shamrock Rovers man, shooting from close range, couldn't squeeze his low shot the right side of Rogers' near post.
The Sligo 'keeper was involved in his side's next opportunity on 65 minutes when Lynch got on the end of his long punt up field. The former Drogheda United man found space behind the City defence but his weak shot failed to worry McNulty.
The game was effectively over as a contest on 82 minutes when Kalen Spillane upended Evan McMillan as the Sligo centre half attempted to reach a Lynch free inside the six yard box.
Elding sent the majority of the 2,221 spectators into raptures as he sent McNulty the wrong way from 12 yards to become the first Sligo player since Brendan Bradley in 1981 to score in five competitive home games in a row.
Two almost became three moments later but for more McNulty's heroics as substitute Kieran Djilali was denied by the City number one.
Cork came close to halving the champions' lead at the death as a goal mouth scramble almost lead to the ball being bundled over the Sligo goal line, but Rovers had just enough bodies present on the line to clear the danger.
Sligo Rovers: Gary Rogers; Alan Keane, Jeff Henderson, Evan McMillan, Ross Gaynor; Raffaele Cretaro, Lee Lynch, David Cawley, Ryan Connolly, Aaron Greene; Anthony Elding.
Subs: Adam Murphy, Iarfhlaith Davoren, Pascal Millien, Kieran Djilali (for Cretaro 73), Liam Martin, Gavin Peers (for Cawley 85), Danny Ventre (for Connolly 56).
Cork City: Mark McNulty; John Dunleavy, Kalen Spillane, Garry Buckley, Danny Murphy; Daryl Horgan, Shane Duggan, Colin Healy, Gearoid Morrisey, Adam Rundle; Denis Behan.
Subs: Kevin Burns, Neal Horgan, Stephen Kenny, Danny Morrisey, Danny Furlong (for Behan 69), Daryl Kavanagh (for Duggan HT), Ian Turner (for Rundle 64).