North gives Rovers advantage
Sligo Rovers took a significant step towards a place in this year's Setanta Sports Cup final with a commanding 2-0 semi-final first leg win over St Patrick's Athletic at The Showgrounds.
Danny North struck twice for the home side and the Bit O' Red spurned plenty of excellent goal-scoring opportunities throughout as Pat's rarely challenged.
The Saints had James Chambers dismissed mid-way through the second period for a second bookable offence.
This is the fifth year in a row that Sligo have reached the last four of the cross-border competition.
The Bit o'Red went in search of a first final appearance without the influential Joseph Ndo (leg), full back Danny Ledwith (hamstring) and long term absentees Raffaele Cretaro (calf) and Gavin Peers (knee).
Manager Ian Baraclough made five changes to his side that lost out to Dundalk. Richard Brush, Seamus Conneely, Kalen Spillane, Paul O'Conor and Kieran Djilali all returning to the Sligo starting 11.
Saints duo Keith Fahey and Kenny Browne both failed late fitness tests and took their respective places in the stands.
Manager Liam Buckley made six changes to the team that played out a 1-1 draw with Limerick at Richmond Park on Saturday afternoon. Rene Gilmartin, Lorcan Fitzgerald, Sean Hoare, Lee Lynch, Daryl Kavanagh and Killian Brennan all coming in to the side.
Djilali threatened first for Sligo in front of a crowd of 816 with less than 40 seconds played.
Gilmartin did well to push Djilali's low shot away at his near post, low down to his left.
Both sides were extremely competitive in the middle of the field during the opening exchanges. Pat's pressed the home side hard but it was the FAI Cup holders who struck first.
Following some good work from Aaron Greene who robbed possession from the feet of Brennan, the former Shamrock Rovers winger teed up Danny North at the edge of the area.
Moving across the face of goal, North unleashed a superbly hit low shot which crept under Gilmartin and into the net with 17 minutes played. This was North's first goal against his former club and his third of the season.
O'Conor spurned a great opportunity to double the lead on 26 minutes. North and Sean Maguire linked up well before the latter found O'Conor inside the six yard box. The midfielder unable to get enough purchase behind his shot as Gilmartin claimed with ease.
The league champions spent plenty of time in front of the Rovers back four during the opening half but couldn't penetrate a stubborn home defence. Sligo had to rely on a deflection to guide Conan Byrne's effort away from goal on the half hour mark.
O'Conor went close again on 36 minutes. Djilali doing well to find the former Drogheda man at the front post from his searching cross, but Gilmartin was there to deny O'Conor once again with another fine save to keep the score at 1-0 at the break.
Maguire should have hit Sligo's second three minutes into the second half. Spillane did well to send Gaynor's over-cooked cross from the right back across goal and with an open goal gaping, the West Ham loanee failing to nod the ball into an empty net.
Pat's were forced to introduce substitute net minder Brendan Clarke into the game on 50 minutes following an injury to Gilmartin. And the former Sligo goalkeeper should have been been tested two minutes later. Maguire fluffing his lines once more as he miss-hit an effort from close range with the majority of the Showgrounds crowd preparing to celebrate a second.
The league champions were reduced to ten men on 70 minutes. Chambers shown his second yellow after an over-zealous challenge on Conneely in the centre of the pitch.
Rovers wasted another great chance on 72 minutes.
North latched on to Maguire's threaded through ball but Clarke stood firm to deny the Grimsby native his brace.
Substitute Eric Odhiambo blasted over with 13 minutes remaining following a nice move which involved Conneely and Alan Keane down Rovers' right.
Kavanagh blasted his effort from the angle over the crossbar on 81 minutes after O'Conor conceded possession in a dangerous area. Sligo looking like they may live to regret past chances.
Jeff Henderson did well to block out a toe poke from Chris Forrester six minutes from time.
The tricky winger linking up with Conor McCormack before Henderson did just enough to divert Forrester's effort. Quigley's free kick was comfortably dealt with by Brush moments later, while the Birmingham native claimed a Forrester drive at the second attempt on 88 minutes.
The home side put this first leg beyond doubt with a minute remaining. Keane and Odhiambo combined well before North claimed his second as he placed the ball between the legs of the on-rushing Clarke from the angle.
Clarke did well to deny North his hat-trick four minutes into injury time, seconds before keeping out John Russell seconds later.
The second leg takes place at Richmond Park on 14 April.
Sligo Rovers: Richard Brush; Alan Keane, Kalen Spillane, Jeff Henderson, Ross Gaynor; Kieran Djilali (for Eric Odhiambo 66), Paul O'Conor (David Cawley 85), Seamus Conneely, Aaron Greene; Sean Maguire (for John Russell 73); Danny North.
Subs not used: Gary Rogers, Evan McMillan, Jake Dykes, Regan Donelon.
St Patrick's Athletic: Rene Gilmartin (Brendan Clarke 50); Conor McCormack, Sean Hoare, Derek Foran (for Ken Oman 25) Lorcan Fitzgerald; Conan Byrne (for Chris Forrester 68), James Chambers, Lee Lynch, Killian Brennan; Mark Quigley; Daryl Kavanagh.
Subs not used: Ger O'Brien, Ian Bermingham, Greg Bolger, Christy Fagan.
Referee: Mervyn Smith.