Youngsters shine as Rovers progress in EA Sports Cup
David Goulden at the Showgrounds.
Sligo Rovers progressed to the second round of this year's EA Sports Cup with a commanding 8-0 trouncing of the Mayo League at the Showgrounds.
Morten Nielsen, Sander Puri and Raffaele Cretaro were amongst the goals, but it was local youngsters Gary Armstrong and Liam Flately who stole the show as Man of the Match Armstrong grabbed a brace while, Flately scored a superb second half hat-trick.
Nielsen, Puri and Danny Ledwith all went close for Rovers during a busy opening period, while Rovers goalkeeper Ryan Coulter relied on solid protection from centre halves Ryan McManus and Jake Dykes to keep a hungry Mayo attack at bay.
The Bit O'Red took the lead with 27 minutes played. A delightful chip over the Mayo defence from Armstrong released Nielsen who had little trouble in clipping the ball beyond Cunningham in the Mayo nets for what was the Dane's first competitive goal for his new club.
Cunningham denied Nielsen minutes later as he was quick to come off his line, while Mayo's Hoban shot narrowly wide on 42 as the away side sought an avenue back into the tie.
But Rovers began to pull away from their opponents and the superb Armstrong doubled the lead two minutes into injury time at the end of the half. Puri and Cretaro combining to set up the Sligo native who tucked the ball beyond Cunningham to give Rovers a two goal advantage at the break.
Armstrong claimed his brace just five minutes into the second period when he dribbled past two tackles before placing the ball into the corner of the net.
Three became four on 56 when Puri's effort from distance swerved and fooled Cunningham before settling in the back of the net. His first competitive strike for Rovers.
Cretaro scored Rovers' sixth from the penalty spot on the hour mark after he was dragged to the ground in the box.
Flately netted the first of his three on 64 as he skilfully controlled a weighted ball from Armstrong before turning his marker and firing low into the net.
He then grabbed his brace on 85 when yet again, some Armstrong trickery brought him past his marker before finding Flately whose shot took a deflection off a Mayo defender before sneaking in.
He then secured a wonderful hat-trick and Rovers' eighth a minute before time, as he controlled a ball forward from Keith Ward before lifting it over the keeper and tapping home.
Rovers will now play either Galway United, Derry City or Cockhill Celtic in the second Round.
Rovers: Coulter, Boylan, Dykes, McManus, Ledwith, Wearen, Ward, Armstrong, Cretaro, Puri, Nielsen.
Subs used: Connolly, Flately.
Mayo League: Cunningham, Tagg, Byrne, Lawless, Ryan, Fitzgerald, Moran, Browne, Hoban, Lavelle, Rowland.