Rovers record pre-season win over Fleetwood Town

Sligo Rovers began pre-season with a win over Fleetwood Town on Friday evening in England, with John Russell’s side running out 5-1 winners thanks to goals from Cillian Heaney, Max Mata, Daniel Lafferty, Johan Brannefalk and Fabrice Hartmann.

The Bit O’ Red were due to face Stoke City at Clayton Wood in Stoke before the game was unfortunately cancelled due to heavy snowfall in the area.

There were first starts for James Finnerty, Daniel Lafferty and Bogdan Vastsuk with John Mahon also starting after his signing from St. Johnstone last weekend. Karl O’ Sullivan started at right back. Luke McNicholas returned in goal following his ankle injury at the end of 2022 and Sean McAteer was given his first start at senior level partnering Greg Bolger and Vastsuk in midfield. Academy graduate Cillian Heaney started on the left with Frank Liivak on the right and Aidan Keena in attack.

Rovers made a bright start with Aidan Keena latching onto a through ball down the left and breaking into the penalty area, seeing his shot stopped by the Fleetwood goalkeeper.

Moments later Rovers did score. Keena played Frank Liivak in down the right hand side and the Estonian’s cross was met by Cillian Heaney at the back post and the man from Westport made no mistake, steadying himself before placing the ball in the top corner from 12 yards.

Rovers kept good possession and created a couple more half chances as the half went on but it was 1-0 at the break.

John Russell made nine changes at half time with all bar Lafferty and McAteer making way for Conor Walsh in goal, Johan Brannefalk, Eanna Clancy, Nando Pijnaker at the back, Lukas Browning and Kailin Barlow in the middle and Will Fitzgerald, Max Mata and Fabrice Hartmann up front. David Cawley was brough on sixty minutes as he continues his recovery from a hip operation in October. Niall Morahan wasn’t risked on the all-weather facility as he also continues his recovery from a recent ankle injury however he could feature on Monday.

The second half started well for Rovers with Max Mata converting a penalty in the 47th minute.

Daniel Lafferty scored his first goal for the club minutes later before Johan Brannefalk and Fabrice Hartmann got in on the act before 65 minutes to make it 5-0 to Rovers.

The hosts pulled a goal back from a corner with twenty minutes remaining but, the fixture proved to be an important workout for the squad and, we thank Fleetwood for giving us the opportunity to play the game at short notice.

A 22-man squad made the journey to The UK with the friendly being the start of a four-day camp overall, with training on Saturday and Sunday at The FA’s base at St. George’s Park in Burton-On-Trent.

The camp will end with a fixture against Wigan Athletic Under 21’s after our fixture with Nottingham Forrest was cancelled due to Forrest’s Under 21 side having a last-minute fixture change, meaning they now have a competitive fixture Monday evening after it was postponed on Friday.