Rovers held to draw in Drogheda
Sligo Rovers suffered a severe blow to their title hopes when they were held to a 1-1 draw by in-form Drogheda United in the Airtricity League Premier Division.
In the end they were slightly fortunate to come away with a point as the Boynesiders missed several gilt-edged chances in the second half to snatch a winner.
First blood went to the home side after 29 minutes when Shane Grimes delivered a pinpoint cross for Paul O’Conor who shot decisively past Gary Rogers.
But the Bit O’Red raised their game either side of half-time and eventually levelled on 50 minutes, David Cawley scoring via the post after latching onto a Danny North centre.
The Drogs finished stronger, though, as Sligo rode their luck.
News of an early goal for St Pat’s in Derry increased the sense of urgency in the Sligo camp and they pressed for an early breakthrough, with Joseph Ndo twice going close and North being foiled by a last-gasp Alan McNally challenge.
For their part, Drogheda looked sharp in attack also, but were unable to test former United Park favourite Gary Rogers in between the Sligo posts.
All that changed after 29 minutes, however, when Rogers was picking the ball out of his own net.
Grimes attacked down the right wing and exchanged passes with Ryan Brennan before squaring for O’Conor (below) who buried a low shot beyond the keeper.
A driving run by O’Conor nearly led to a second Drogheda goal as Alan Byrne’s crisp shot was parried by Rogers who then finger-tipped the rebound away from O’Conor’s boot.
Kieran Djilali was by some margin Sligo’s liveliest player and on 41 minutes he almost drew them level with a driving run from inside his own half, followed by a rasping shot that grazed the crossbar.
The Bit O’Red made a storming start to the second period as Raffaele Cretaro (twice) and Gavin Peers went close and on 50 minutes they were level, Cawley’s deft touch from a North cross carrying the ball in off the post.
O’Conor latched onto a measured Gavin Brennan cross but couldn’t generate enough power on his volley for Drogheda before the visitors missed a sitter as goalscorer Cawley headed straight at Micheal Schlingermann from point-blank range.
But Sligo then had a let-off when Rogers misjudged a clearing punch and injured himself in the process, and Alan Byrne was just about to put the ball in the net when referee Sutton stopped play to allow the keeper receive attention.
In the first minute of stoppage time a great run by Ryan Brennan led to a free kick 25 yards from goal and Philip Hand hit a poor effort straight at Rogers.
And right at the death O’Conor should have won it for Drogheda when he headed over from inside the six-yard box.
DROGHEDA UNITED: Micheal Schlingermann; Shane Grimes, Alan McNally, Derek Prendergast, Philip Hand; Alan Byrne; David Cassidy, Paul O’Conor, Ryan Brennan, Gavin Brennan; Declan O’Brien.
Subs not used: Gavin Holohan, Cathal Brady, Peter Hynes, Gary O’Neill, Eric Foley, Jason Marks, Gabriel Sava.
SLIGO ROVERS: Gary Rogers; Alan Keane, Gavin Peers, Jeff Henderson, Aaron Greene; Seamus Conneely (David McMillan 70), David Cawley, Joseph Ndo; Kieran Djilali, Daniel North, Raffaele Cretaro (Anthony Elding 86).
Subs not used: Danny Ventre, Liam Martin, Lee Lynch, Ciaran Kelly.
Referee: Padraigh Sutton (Clare).