Match stats: Rovers v Athlone

Sunday’s loss against St Patrick’s Athletic was just the second from the last 15 outings for the Bit o’Red and both have come against the Saints at Richmond Park. 
The other 13 games have seen 11 wins and two draws.
It was the first time an away game was lost by Rovers in the month of March since 2009 and only the second time in the last 24 played overall.
Rovers are nine unbeaten in the Showgrounds since the reverse to Molde in the Champions League last July.
In domestic football alone there have been no defeats in 12 and just the one in 22 and three from the last 33.
Seven of the last eight games played at home have seen wins for the Bit o’Red which includes victories over the likes of Shamrock Rovers, Cork City, Drogheda United and Derry City. 
Rovers have conceded just once in the Showgrounds in the last nine games a run going back to the loss against Molde in July’s Champions League tie. 
The only goal that has been conceded was from the penalty spot for Drogheda United’s Ryan Brennan in the last minute of our final home game of 2013. 
The FAI Cup winners are now unbeaten in the last 22 home games played on a Saturday going back over two years to a defeat to Bohemians on August 13th 2011. 
From those games there have been 16 wins and 6 draws.
Rovers have gone on to win the last 20 home games when scoring first. The last time we failed to do so was when being knocked out of the FAI Cup 3-1 by Monaghan United in 2012. 
In league game,  it is 16 since St. Pat’s came back to draw 1-1 in April 2012.
It’s over three years since Rovers were beaten by a newly promoted club which was Sporting Fingal when they won 1-0 in the Showgrounds in May 2010.
Ross Gaynor can make the 200th appearance of his professional career if he lines out against Athlone. 
The Ardee man started his career with Millwall before moving to the League of Ireland where he played for Cobh Ramblers, Sporting Fingal, Drogheda United and Dundalk before joining Sligo Rovers. In his time in the north-west he has turned out 65 times in total. 
Forty-eight have been in the league, seven in the Setanta Sports Cup, four in the League Cup, four in European competition and two in the FAI Cup. In that time he has scored twice with one in each of his two seasons. 
They were against Monaghan United in the league cup and Derry City in the league last year and both were in the Showgrounds.
Last six results:
13/10/13  LOI  St. Pat’s  2-0  Sligo Rovers
19/10/13  LOI  Sligo Rovers  3-1  Drogheda United  (Anthony Elding x2 (1 pen), Evan McMillan)
25/10/13  LOI  Shamrock Rovers  1-2  Sligo Rovers  (Aaron Greene, Danny North)
3/11/13  FAI  Sligo Rovers  3-2  Drogheda United  (Danny North x2, Anthony Elding)
24/2/14  SSC  Crusaders  1-4  Sligo Rovers  (Eric Odhiambo x3, Aaron Greene)
2/3/14  PC  St. Pat’s  1-0  Sligo Rovers
Opening league game:
The opening game of last year’s Airtricity League resulted in a 1-0 win over Derry City.
It was only the second time in six seasons that Rovers had won the first game of the campaign. That other time was also when earning a 1-0 win in the Brandywell two years previously in 2011.
However, only once in the past nine seasons have Rovers lost the first game played.
That happened in 2008 when St. Pat’s triumphed 3-1 in Richmond Park.
In each of the last six seasons the Bit o’Red have scored a single goal in the first league game of the season going back to a 2-0 away win over Galway United in 2007.
This will be the first time since 2010 that the first league game of the season for Rovers has been a home one. 
That fixture ended 1-1 between Rovers and Shams with an Eoin Doyle strike for the Bit o’Red.
The last time Rovers lost an opening game when it was played at home was in the 1999/2000 season when visitors UCD took the points with a 2-1 win despite a Padraig Moran goal for Rovers.
The first home league game of the season has been won by Rovers for the past two years, beating Bray 3-0 in 2013 and UCD 2-1 in 2012. Before that we went four years without winning, losing two and drawing two.
Rovers overall record on the first game of a league season is 25 wins, 31 losses and 15 draws.
The first league game has been in the Showgrounds on 41 occasions. When it has Rovers have won 16 times, drew 11 and lost 14.
Rovers previously played Athlone Town on the first day of the 1983/84 season in an away game at St. Mel’s Park with the home sound ending the game on top with a 3-1 win. Larry Conn was Rovers goalscorer.
It happened again in 1994/95 after both sides had earned promotion to the Premier Division the previous year with a 0-0 result this time again in St. Mel’s Park.
The following season the two clubs would again be pitched together on opening day with the Showgrounds the venue this time. 
A goal on debut from Ian Gilzean, Gavin Dykes, another debutant Andy Ramage and Johnny Kenny gave the Bit o’Red a 4-2 win to start the season.
Another opening day meeting occurred in the First Division in the 2000/01 season following Rovers relegation with that game finishing 0-0 on August 13th.
The last 10 opening home league fixtures have been as follows:
27/3/04  Sligo Rovers  3-1  Galway United (Stephen O’Donnell x2, Raffaele Cretaro)
19/3/05  Sligo Rovers  2-1  Kildare County  (Michael McNamara x2)
18/3/06  Sligo Rovers  1-0  Bohemians  (Adam Hughes)
17/3/07  Sligo Rovers  0-2  Derry City
15/3/08  Sligo Rovers  0-0  Drogheda United
7/3/09  Sligo Rovers  1-1  Cork City  (Stephen Parkhouse)
6/3/10 Sligo Rovers  1-1  Shamrock Rovers  (Eoin Doyle)
12/3/11  Sligo Rovers  0-1  Shamrock Rovers
10/3/12  Sligo Rovers  2-1  UCD  (Danny North, Jason McGuinness)
16/3/13  Sligo Rovers  3-0  Bray Wanderers  (Anthony Elding x2, Kieran Djilali)
Sligo Rovers and Athlone Town have not played since 2010 when they faced off in an FAI Cup tie at the Showgrounds. 
Despite the sides being in different divisions, it was a close game only decided by a goal from John Dillon in the early moments of the second half. It proved to be the first game on the Bit o’Red’s run to win the competition that season.
Four members of the Rovers team that day are now with the club: Richard Brush, Gavin Peers, John Russell and Joseph Ndo. The full line-up on that day was: Brush; Whelan, Davoren, Peers, Foran, Ryan, Dillon, Russel, Ndo, Amond, McCabe ((Marshall 41’) O’Grady 86’).
The last league meeting between the sides was in Rovers’ 2005 promotion season with a 0-0 draw in the Showgrounds on the penultimate night of the season confirmed Rovers moved back to the top flight. 
It was one of three scoreless draws between the sides that season with the only goal being in Rovers 1-0 home win on July 9th with a Sean Flannery goal. 
That means the Bit o’ Red have five clean sheets in-a-row against the midlanders since they won 2-1 in the Showgrounds in October 2004.
Overall just two goals have been scored in the last five clashes between Rovers and Athlone, the above mentioned Flannery strike and Dillon’s winner when the Showgrounds club knocked Town out of the FAI Cup in 2010.
The 2-1 win in October 2005 is Athlone’s only is the last eight against Rovers and they also have just two wins out of 14.
Athlone lead the head to head series, from the 46 games between the sides in the Premier Division they have 19 wins to Rovers with 17. 
Their record in the Showgrounds is even more impressive winning 10 times, four more than the home side with six. That’s despite the Bit o’Red winning on both occasions when both sides were last in the top flight in 1995/96.
Across both divisions Athlone’s head-to-head lead in 24 wins to 22. When played in the Showgrounds they have 12 wins to 10.
In two of the last five seasons both clubs have been in top flight Rovers have completed a clean sweep of wins by beating Athlone three times. That included the last season the clubs faced eachother in premier division action 1995/96.
The last 16 league meetings between the sides were in the First Division between 2001 and 2005. 
In the 2001/02 season Raff Cretaro scored just his second ever goal for the club in a 3-3 draw at St. Mel’s Park. He has gone on to score 66 more times for the club since.
Last six meetings:
1/10/04  LOI  Sligo Rovers  1-2  Athlone Town  (Ciaran Foley)
28/4/05  LOI  Athlone Town  0-0  Sligo Rovers
8/7/05  LOI  Sligo Rovers  1-0  Athlone Town  (Sean Flannery)
8/9/05  LOI  Athlone Town  0-0  Sligo Rovers
11/11/05  LOI  Sligo Rovers  0-0  Athlone Town
4/6/10  FAI  Sligo Rovers  1-0  Athlone Town  (John Dillon)
New signing: Richard Brush
Birmingham-born keeper Richard Brush joins for a third spell with the club having initially signed in 2006. 
He initially spent his time as understudy to John O’Hara he had to wait until late July to make his debut which came at Tolka Park versus Shelbourne. 
He would establish himself as the number one over the following four seasons but injury would cause him to miss the FAI Cup finals at the end of the 2009 and 2010 seasons as well as the 2010 EA Sports Cup final.
Having made 137 appearances for the Bit o’Red and kept 43 clean sheets his departed to join Shamrock Rovers for the 2011 season. 
There he would be part of their league winning squad and play in the Europa League group stages but after a single season he returned west to sign for Rovers. He again captured the league title but played just five times being kept out by the established Gary Rogers. 
For the 2013 season he would go back in the opposite direction to join Shamrock Rovers again. Last year he won the Setanta Sports Cup with the Tallaght club but after playing 17 times during the season made yet another return to join Sligo Rovers once again. 
In his time with Rovers he has played 143 times and amassed 44 clean sheets. His overall career total is 54 clean sheets from 171 games played. He has already made his first appearance for the season starting in the President’s cup against St. Pat’s.

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