Updated: 17/07/17 : 06:53:28
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Sligo Rovers stay stuck in slow bicycle race

Comment: Eugene McGloin

SLIGO ROVERS failed to put clear daylight between themselves and the chasing pack in the SSE Airtricity relegation zone at the Showgrounds on Saturday night.

But a bumper crowd of 1,617 saw the Bit o' Red edge into ninth place with a 1-1 draw against bottom club, Drogheda United.

A well drilled Drogheda team had few shots actually on target in a game which added five minutes at the end of the second half.

The visitors, though, have already staked their claim for 'goal of the season.'

It came in the 51st minute, a wonder strike from the left after Tobi Adebayo-Rowling failed to clear.

Sean Russell fired an unstoppable shot to Michael Schlingermann's left, a goal applauded by many home supporters for its quality.

Most Impressive

That lead last just twelve minutes and it was Rovers most impressive playmaker who secured a valuable point.

Rhys McCabe was making his home debut and he used his pace and skill to cut in from the right and inch-perfectly place his 63rd minute shot beyond Stephen McGuinness.

Raffaele Cretaro's perfect pass had set up McCabe but we saw too little, otherwise, from the 'Tubbercurry Tornado".

There was an urgency about Rovers play after that goal just after the hour, but much too often their play lacked the simplest of pattern.

Too seldom the ball was played wide on the right even when there was plenty of support.

The Drogheda keeper McGuinness also showed vulnerability and flapped at several crosses from the right.

Yet too often Rovers choose to go wide on the left.....but then the expected cross never came into the box.

Well Drilled

What is the point in playing a bustling ,strong, mobile man in the centre upfront, such as Benny Igiehon, if you don't feed crosses to him?

'Benny,' not to be confused with the club mascot, could become a crowd favourite, as he was at Scarborough Athletic. 

Igiehon certainly had the crowd on his side with his cheeky cracker from just inside the half way line early in the game.

Shortly after, the debutante was also involved in a perfect lay-off to Daniel Kearns.

His fierce shot cracked off the crossbar with the Drogheda keeper beaten. 

That said, a well drilled Drogheda team were well worth their salvaged point.

They played with purpose and if the accuracy of a team's total passes counted Drogheda United would have taken all three points on night.

As it was they almost sneaked those points at the death; only a 'do or die' stop by Michael Leahy far into stoppage time stopped a certain goal.

Slow Bicycle

The bottom rungs of the SSE Airtricity League now resembles a slow bicycle.

Three teams are certain to be relegated and bottom four have this Sunday morning now all played 22 of the season's 33 games.

09th place Sligo Rovers                 21 points
10th place St Patrick's Athletic    20 points
11th place Galway United FC.       19 points
12th place Drogheda United.        18 points.

Some one of that quartet is going to make a burst for safety, beyond the reach of the others.

Most Obvious

All season, five months now, we have believed that burst belongs with Sligo.

The most obvious shortcoming is lack of leadership and consistency in the centre of the park. 

Midfield seems to go 'missing' as often as, say, our TDs in the Dail heading on holidays. It certainly lacks consistent presence in the game.

The final round starts next weekend when Sligo travels to Limerick, where they got a 5-1 drubbing with over 3,000 spectators watching on the opening night last February.

Healthy Turnstiles

The next home game in the Showgrounds sees the visit of reigning champions Dundalk.

Both the home and away components of that tussle have seen the Bit o' Red go down 4-0 to Dundalk this season.

Last night's wonder goal recalled a similar Dane Massey strike for Dundalk as they wrested the League title from Sligo Rovers four years ago.

Those glory days seem distant now.....except at the Showgrounds' healthy turnstiles.

Those men and women in the crowd may (just) be the difference in relegation and safety at season's end. 

On this evidence, football is alone most unlikely to turn the tables.

There was just one booking on either side, Seamus Sharkey for Sligo and former Irish international Stephen Elliott for Drogheda.