Rovers denied late on in The Showgrounds

There was goals at either end late on as Sligo Rovers and Shamrock Rovers maintained their unbeaten start to the season with a 1-1 draw at the Showgrounds.

Hoops goalkeeper Alan Mannus allowed a speculative drive from Walter Figueira slip between his hands for what looked like a Bit O’Red winner with eight minutes to go.

But Sligo were to be denied what would have been a third win in four when luckless defender John Mahon turned the ball into his own net in added time.

Sligo came into this tie ahead of their opponents in the league table for the first time since they themselves were reigning champions in 2013.

But it was the current title holders who threatened first when Graham Burke had Sligo goalkeeper Ed McGinty at full stretch to push the striker’s effort wide, after Burke hand linked up with Dylan Watts and Ronan Finn.

Despite an evenly contested opening half, it did take the hosts 24 minutes to make any real ground in front of the Hoops goal.

Figueira had the ball in Mannus’ net after a well worked short corner routine saw the ball land at the feet of ex-Hoops and Sligo skipper Greg Bolger.

Bolger’s rasping drive was kept out by the Northern Ireland international before Figueira tapped home, but the referee’s assistant on the Jinks’ Avenue side adjudged the former Derry playmaker to have been offside in the build-up.

Liam Buckley’s charges matched their opponents stride for stride for the remainder of the half.

McGinty held Lee Grace’s header from a Finn corner ten minutes from the break. While Robbie McCourt’s set piece from the angle wasn’t too far off after the speedy Jordan Gibson had been upended at the perimeter of the penalty area.

Both camps were seeking to end either’s unbeaten start to 2021 and it was the Connaught men who began this second period the brighter.

Figueira could only stab Colm Horgan’s cross past Mannus’ back post after stellar interplay between both Horgan and Gibson on the Sligo right.

Sean Hoare was forced to atone for his own error on 65 when he recovered well to take the ball off substitute Ryan De Vries’ toe at the front stick. This, after the centre half had conceded possession to Gibson who supplied the cross towards the waiting New Zealander.

Hoops boss Stephen Bradley introduced Rory Gaffney in place of Burke in an effort to introduce fresh impetus to his attack.   

But the Dubliners’ woes were at the other end as Sligo nudged ahead with eight to go.

With nothing on in front of him, Figueira decided to hit what was a chance effort from distance which somehow squirmed its way between Mannus’ hands and beyond the dismayed goalkeeper.

As expected, the Tallaght side threw everything at it for the remainder.

A Lee Grace header from a corner was repelled by the Sligo defence, before disaster then struck at the Sligo end when Mahon turned Gaffney’s cross past McGinty.

The champions spurned a wonderful chance to take all the points in added time, but Chris McCann misjudged the flight of the ball whilst unmarked in front of goal. His header dragging harmlessly wide.

Sligo Rovers: Ed McGinty; Colm Horgan, John Mahon, Garry Buckley, Robbie McCourt; Niall Morahan, Greg Bolger; Romeo Parkes, Walter Figueira, Jordan Gibson; Johnny Kenny (Ryan De Vries ht).

Shamrock Rovers: Alan Mannus; Sean Hoare, Lee Grace, Liam Scales; Ronan Finn (Sean Gannon 78), Sean Kavanagh; Chris McCann, Dylan Watts; Graham Burke (Rory Gaffney 78), Aaron Greene, Danny Mandriou.

Referee: Derek Tomney.