Rovers down Derry as Rado strikes late

Substitute Stefan Radosavljevic netted for the Bit O’Red’s to pick up a vital three points for Sligo Rovers against Derry City on Friday night.

Ruaidhri Higgins’ charges finished with 10 men after Ronan Boyce was sent off late on having picked up a second yellow card.

On their way to back-to-back wins for the first time in over a year and the points that would further pull his side away from relegation worries, Rovers boss John Russell made one change from their first win in seven last week over UCD, Johan Brannefalk coming in for Fabrice Hartmann.

City, hoping to keep pace with leaders Shamrock Rovers, were forced into one change. Shane McEleney, dismissed during their recent draw with the Hoops, was replaced by Ciaran Coll in the heart of defence.

In an opening half which lacked creativity and cutting edge from either camp, it took almost 20 minutes for either goalkeeper to be called into action, although Brian Maher will have faced tougher tests as he easily gathered Rovers skipper David Cawley’s effort from distance in the 19th minute.

Derry’s recent record by the Garavogue has been patchy at best, with their last win in Sligo coming back in August 2021. The Foylesiders were back at the venue their 2022 title challenge ended with defeat to Sligo.

Their first attempt at goal arrived just short of the half-hour when veteran goalkeeper Richard Brush produced a two-handed save to keep out Danny Mullen’s pot-shot on the turn.

The same player could only fire wide from close range moments later, although the very presence of Rovers’ Niall Morahan may have done enough to put the Scottish striker off.

Visiting netminder Maher remained an onlooker for the remainder of the first period as the Showgrounds looked for a moment of class to provide the spark to a drab affair.

Sligo’s Greg Bolger’s ambitious first-time volley was the closest the hosts came to an opener when he skewed a volley wide of Maher’s posts on 38 minutes. This, after trojan work in the corner from captain Cawley, who provided the cross for the opportunity.

Rovers’ Portuguese striker Pedro Martelo fashioned an early shot on goal in the early moments of the second half, with Maher comfortably keeping hold of the former Benfica man’s scuffed effort.

Brush again denied Mullen in the 52nd minute at the far end when the Derry striker released a teasing shot on the turn from the edge of the penalty area, with the 38-year-old Brush pulling off an impressive save to keep the ball in play as this tie showed signs of really opening up.

Martelo was inches away from his first League of Ireland goal on the next attack after he connected well with Reece Hutchinson’s pull back, with the striker left perplexed when his low drive crept past Maher’s post.

Bolger again speculated on the volley from outside the box on the hour as Rovers took to the front foot, but once more Maher was not for beating.

The visiting bench were left incensed in the 72nd minute when Brush crashed into Cian Kavanagh eight yards from his goal-line as the Derry substitute chased down a ball forward from the City defence. Referee Rob Harvey ignored claims of any wrongdoing on Brush’s part.

Derry’s game-plan was thrown into chaos 10 minutes from time when Boyce, on his 100th appearance under Higgins, was shown a second yellow after he attempted to stop a quick Sligo throw-in.

But things got even worse for the FAI Cup holders on 84 minutes.

City’s rearguard switched off for a moment, allowing the unmarked Radosavljevic – possibly with the aid of his hand – to bundle Hutchinson’s cross past Maher from six yards out, with referee Robert Harvey waving away Derry City’s subsequent protests.

Rovers’ Faroese striker could have settled this game three minutes from time but Radosavljevic skied Kailin Barlow’s cross over Maher’s crossbar from point-blank range.

But one goal was enough

Sligo Rovers: Richard Brush; Niall Morahan (Stefan Radosavljevic 79), John Mahon (Nando Pijnaker HT), Garry Buckley, Reece Hutchinson; Greg Bolger (Lukas Browning 79), David Cawley; Johan Brannefalk (Frank Liivak 55), Robbie Burton (Kailin Barlow 63), Karl O’Sullivan; Pedro Martelo.

Derry City: Brian Maher; Ronan Boyce, Ciaran Coll, Cameron McJannett, Ben Doherty (Brandon Kavanagh 87); Sadou Diallo (Cameron Dummigan 69), Will Patching; Paul McMullan (Jordan McEneff 83), Adam O’Reilly, Michael Duffy; Danny Mullen (Cian Kavanagh 69).

Referee: Rob Harvey.

Attendance: 2.491.