Al­most a relief that tonight’s game is away, given our form at The Show­grounds

The Sligo Champion - - SPORT -

IF the FAI be­gan to reward teams points for gritty per­for­mances away from home, Sligo Rovers would still find them­selves in and around the same spot as we are to­day al­beit a few points closer to sev­enth spot.

There was a hard luck story against Cork City in April, while no­body could have ar­gued had the Bit O’Red taken three points from Water­ford later that month.

Again there was an ad­mirable, de­ter­mined per­for­mance on the road last week. This time Rovers had to set­tle for noth­ing but the ap­pre­ci­a­tion and ap­plause from the small band of away sup­port­ers at full-time at Oriel Park.

From the early view­ing, Dun­dalk looked like they would hand us a sim­i­lar spank­ing as they did on our last visit there just one day short of a year pre­vi­ous. Jamie McGrath sup­plied the hat-trick that day as the Li­ly­whites went on to trounce us by four goals to nil.

A vi­ciously dan­ger­ous Dun­dalk at­tack bom­barded the Rovers goal­mouth in the first 15 to 20 min­utes. An opener was in­evitable but it came in rather dis­cour­ag­ing and ques­tion­able cir­cum­stances.

Hav­ing fended off wave af­ter wave of at­tack, Pa­trick McClean failed to clear the ball at the first at­tempt, al­low­ing Dy­lan Con­nolly to steady him­self and hound the Derry man. McClean seemed to make con­tact with the ball first as the Dun­dalk winger ran across in front of him.

Con­tact was in­evitable and Con­nolly went to ground quickly as he could. Un­for­tu­nately there are no re­plays avail­able early on a Satur­day morn­ing but on first in­spec­tion, it seemed Rovers were hard done by.

Sup­port­ers were crit­i­cal of how we seemed to throw in the towel once one down against Bohs two weeks ago and the crit­i­cism man­age­ment and team re­ceived was to­tally just. But the dif­fer­ence between the two games was our at­ti­tude.

De­spite be­ing be­hind, we pushed Dun­dalk back and had we that pres­ence up top we’ve lacked for the ma­jor­ity of the sea­son, we would have trou­bled Gary Rogers more.

The front three of Raff Cre­taro, Greg Moor­house and Caolan McAleer could not have been faulted for their for­ag­ing up top. But again we didn’t look men­ac­ing in front of goal.

An­other ref­eree might have re­warded McAleer for his brav­ery when he col­lided with Rogers be­fore the same man’s pace was too much for the for­mer Sligo goalkeeper on the stroke of half-time.

His as­sis­tant and not the he­si­tant To­mas Con­nolly al­low­ing the cre­ative Rhys McCabe to level the game from the spot.

Dun­dalk re­grouped and re-started their siege on the Rovers goal in the sec­ond half. I’ve been crit­i­cal of Kyle Cal­lan-McFad­den in re­cent weeks but his show­ing on Fri­day was akin to the KCM of the lat­ter por­tion of 2017.

De­ter­mined and de­ci­sive, the Rovers cap­tain en­joyed an au­thor­i­ta­tive re­turn to form, keep­ing Pat Hoban rel­a­tively quiet in play. That of course, un­til a mo­men­tary lapse al­lowed the Gal­way man to sneak in for what again felt like a Dun­dalk win­ner that was al­ways go­ing to come.

The value of an out and out goal-scorer in the League of Ire­land right in front of our eyes.

Our own goal-scorer Adam Mor­gan was given a half hour but due to Dun­dalk’s dom­i­nance and what seemed like an in­jury to David Caw­ley, Mor­gan’s in­flu­ence in dan­ger­ous ar­eas was stunted. With piv­otal games against St Pat’s (tonight) and Shams on Satur­day, it’s im­per­a­tive Mor­gan is both fed and comes up with the goods over the next five days.

It’s al­most a relief that tonight’s game isn’t in front of our own sup­port­ers. Be it a col­lec­tive ner­vous­ness or the way teams play against us at the Show­grounds, our home from in 2018 has been poor.

The play­ers don’t have to worry about that this evening as we make our way to Inchicore for what is the twice resched­uled game with the Saints.

De­feat tonight would open up a 12 point gap between our­selves and Pat’s, a team we should re­ally be in and around this sea­son.

They’ve only been beaten once at home this sea­son. It was hard to fathom how the team that al­most took a point from Oriel was largely the same one who bowed so eas­ily to Bohs. So tonight we must see the same lev­els as the ones the play­ers came out with last Fri­day.

The draw for the last four of the EA Sports Cup saw Rovers paired with Derry fol­low­ing last week’s nar­row win over a largely sec­ond-string Water­ford side. It’ll be in­ter­est­ing to see come Au­gust where we are in terms of points ac­cu­mu­lated.

Hope­fully our home form will have dra­mat­i­cally im­proved by then.

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