MATCH REPORT: SLIGO ROVERS 2-0 LIMERICK
Goals in either half from Raffaele Cretaro and Danny North gave reigning champions Sligo Rovers a 2-0 win over a spirited Limerick side at The Showgrounds on Saturday night.
Cretaro gave Sligo the perfect start inside nine minutes when he converted Kieran Djilali’s right-wing cross, but Limerick recovered well from that goal and gave as good as they got.
In a half short on openings, Limerick should have equalised three minutes before the break when Robbie Williams played in Darragh Rainsford but the youngster shot straight at Gary Rogers in a one-on-one.
That proved more costly nine minutes into the second half when Joseph Ndo scooped a free-kick over the wall and North finished at the second attempt from close range.
North and substitute David McMillan could have extended that lead late on but the latter’s shot hit the outside of the upright and then he was denied by a superb Barry Ryan save as Sligo had to settle for two.
For the game, Stuart Taylor was without Danny Galbraith for the first time in the league this season – although he was included on the bench in a late change – while Shane Costelloe missed out through injury and Shaun Kelly and Rory Gaffney were suspended.
That meant four changes to the team that exited the FAI Cup at the hands of Dundalk eight days earlier, with Patrick Nzuzi and Craig Curran returning from bans, new signing Samuel Oji handed a debut and Stephen Bradley returning to the starting lineup.
After holding most of the possession in the opening exchanges, Sligo threatened on eight minutes when a low cross was attacked by North but Oji blocked well to put it behind for a corner which came to nothing.
However, from the next play, Sligo found a way through as Djilali’s delivery went all the way through to Cretaro who blasted past Ryan from ten-yards.
Soon after, a short corner eventually found its way to Jeff Henderson but, from a promising position in the box, he fired a poor effort over.
On 17 minutes, Limerick created their first attack of note when Williams’ cross from the left found Curran in the box but with the striker under pressure Sligo cleared.
After a quiet period, the Superblues were on the front foot again on the half-hour mark when Dave O’Leary’s delivery from the right was met by Stephen Folan but the defender failed to get enough power in his header to trouble Rogers.
Lee Lynch then fired over from distance for Sligo, but on 42 minutes Limerick should have grabbed a leveller when Williams did well to win possession and played a lovely through-ball for Rainsford but he shot straight at Rogers.
Rainsford was almost in again seconds later but the Sligo No1 did well to hold a high cross, as Limerick trailed by the narrowest of margins at the break.
And on 54 minutes, the Superblues’ task was made doubly difficult.
What appeared to be a harshly-awarded free-kick against O’Leary was taken cleverly by Ndo over the wall and into North who, after initially getting blocked, finished to the net from six-yards.
Ten minutes later, Galbraith was introduced as Taylor looked for a way back into the game, but neither side could create much in the final third.
On 77 minutes, North met a cross with a powerful header but Oji got in the way, with the Sligo striker firing the rebound well over.
Five minutes later, the hosts went close again when McMillan turned well and fired a shot off the outside of the post, and then Ryan brilliantly denied the former UCD man when it looked certain to go 3-0.
Limerick now prepare for next week’s visit of title favourites Saint Patrick’s Athletic to Thomond Park on Saturday evening.
Sligo Rovers: Gary Rogers, Alan Keane, Gavin Peers ©, Jeff Henderson, Aaron Greene, Kieran Djilali, Joseph Ndo, David Cawley (Séamus Conneely 68), Raffaele Cretaro (Danny Ventre 83), Lee Lynch (David McMillan 75), Danny North. Goals: R Cretaro (9), D North (54). Booked: K Djilali (45+1). Unused Subs: Ciarán Kelly (GK), Pascal Millien, Liam Martin, Anthony Elding.
Limerick: Barry Ryan, Patrick Nzuzi, Samuel Oji, Stephen Folan, Robbie Williams, Joe Gamble ©, Dave O’Leary (Carel Tiofack 77), Stephen Bradley, Darragh Rainsford (Barry Sheedy 86), Axel Bossekota (Danny Galbraith 64), Craig Curran. Booked: S Folan (21), S Bradley (45+1), D O’Leary (53), J Gamble (90+4). Unused Subs: Shane Cusack (GK), Pat Purcell, Jason Hughes, Tony Whitehead.
Referee: Derek Tomney (Dublin). Attendance: 1,684 (Official).