Vinny Faherty scored a brace and Dean Clarke added what proved to be the winner as Limerick finally got their first victory of the SSE Airtricity League Premier Division season at the Markets Field on Saturday evening, beating closest rivals Sligo Rovers 3-2.
Limerick struck the front past the midway point of the first half when Faherty fired to the roof of the net after being set up by Lee-J Lynch.
The night got better for the Shannonsiders – searching for their first league win of the year at the 22nd attempt – as they doubled their advantage with a bullet close-range header from Faherty after Ian Turner’s delivery.
Sligo made two changes at the break, and after pressing for a way back into the game they found one before the hour-mark when former Limerick man Patrick Nzuzi provided the cross for debutant Rob Lehane to score.
But Limerick restored their two-goal cushion within eight minutes when Lynch won possession and found Faherty who in turn fed Clarke, the hard-working forward’s shot deflecting off ex-Blue Jason Hughes and going over ‘keeper Richard Brush.
However, much of the 980 in attendance were forced to endure a nervy finish after Gary Armstrong brought the Bit O’ Red back within one with 12 minutes remaining.
And they had Shane Tracy to thank for seeing them through after his goal-line clearance from Raffaele Cretaro, as Martin Russell’s side moved within seven points of The Showgrounds club who occupy the playoff place.
Russell had made three changes to the team that lined out in the defeat at Shamrock Rovers six days earlier as new signings Shaun Kelly and Patrick Kanyuka joined Faherty in the starting lineup. Out went Paudie O’Connor, Prince Agyemang and Seán Russell.
After Limerick had survived a scare when Freddie Hall was called into action, the hosts broke the deadlock on 24 minutes. Lynch won possession in the middle and played in Faherty, with the Moycullen man driving to the roof of the net.
Hall was alert to save from Cretaro while at the other end Turner shot wide and Lynch’s strike was into the hands of Brush. But there was no denying Limerick a second eight minutes from the break when Turner supplied the cross and Faherty connected with a fine header.
Faherty then almost put the game to bed but his header from Tracy’s corner went over. After the break, he had another opportunity but his shot went narrowly wide.
Sligo then pressed for a goal and Hall produced a superb save from Cretaro in a one-on-one on 54 minutes. Shortly after, they were back in it when Nzuzi supplied the cross and Lehane – who signed on-loan from Cork City this week – finished off from close in.
Limerick then struck again when Lynch and Faherty combined to set up Clarke whose strike deflected off Hughes and over Brush.
Hall then proved his worth once more when denying Cretaro, but he could do little on 78 minutes when Armstrong ghosted in at the back post to meet Regan Donelon’s cross.
That meant an unwanted grandstand finish for the home side – who introduced Cyril Guedjé for his debut eight minutes from time – and Sligo almost found an equaliser on 86 minutes but Cretaro saw his effort cleared off the line by Tracy.
Hall was also called upon in injury-time to save Danny Ledwith’s free-kick, as Limerick survived to record their first league win at the Markets Field in 31 years, since beating Saint Patrick’s Athletic by the same scoreline in March 1984.
Limerick: Freddie Hall, Shaun Kelly, Patrick Kanyuka, Robbie Williams, Shane Tracy, Shane Duggan ©, Lee-J Lynch, Paul O’Conor, Ian Turner (Seán Russell 82), Dean Clarke, Vinny Faherty (Cyril Guedjé 82). Goals: V Faherty (24, 37), D Clarke (65). Booked: S Kelly (15), L Lynch (83). Unused Subs: Tommy Holland (GK), Aidan Price, Paudie O’Connor, Darragh Rainsford, Ross Mann.
Sligo Rovers: Richard Brush, Patrick Nzuzi, Gavin Peers (Danny Ledwith HT), Tim Clancy, Alan Keane, Gary Boylan (Gary Armstrong HT), Jason Hughes, Regan Donelon (Jake Dykes 87), David Cawley ©, Raffaele Cretaro, Rob Lehane. Goals: R Lehane (57), G Armstrong (78). Booked: G Peers (30). Unused Subs: Ciarán Kelly (GK), Keith Ward, Ryan McManus.
Referee: Rob Rogers (Dublin). Attendance: 980 (Official).
Report Date: Saturday 1 August 2015