Shamrock Rovers came from behind to defeat ten-man Sligo Rovers in an incident-packed game at the Showgrounds on Friday night.
In a game that saw Sligo go ahead before having a man sent-off, the visitors secured the three points thanks to an own goal and a header from former Sligo player Chris Turner that was adjudged to have crossed the line by the referee’s assistant.
Sligo welcomed back Alan Keane from suspension, but were without Gary McCabe and Matthew Blinkhorn. Dessie Baker missed out through injury for the Hoops.
Both sides had early chances, with Iarfhlaith Davoren having to turn a dangerous Billy Dennehy cross around the post and Eoin Doyle narrowly failing to connect with Richie Ryan’s cross at the other end.
But Doyle had no such problems second time around, when he rose inside the area to head Joseph Ndo’s corner to the net on 23 minutes.
But Sligo’s chances took a knock on 37 minutes, when Gavin Peers was shown a straight red card for a late tackle on Billy Dennehy. They could have conceded a goal soon after as well, but for a superb save from Richard Brush, who dived to block Gary Twigg’s close-range header.
Dennehy then hit the post with a shot from outside the area, but the home side maintained their advantage at the interval, prompting Hoops boss Michael O’Neill to throw on an extra striker, Thomas Stewart, for the second half.
The visitors had to wait just nine minutes into the period for the equaliser, although it came went a large slice of luck. Twigg put pressure on Alan Keane as he tried to clear Dennehy’s cross from the right, and the defender’s header lopped over Brush and into his own net.
The Hoops took the lead just seven minutes later, when Turner – who was booed throughout for opting for Tallaght Stadium instead of the Showgrounds in the close season – saw a header bounce off the crossbar and behind the line, with the referee awarding the goal on the advice of his linesman.
Sligo introduced striker Lee McEvilly for his debut after this and John Russell had a major shout for a penalty turned down after he beat three Hoops players only to be tripped in the area.
Soon after that McEvilly saw a header palmed around the post by an excellent Mannus save, and he tested the keeper from a free-kick as well.
Sligo went close again when Padraig Amond narrowly failed to connect with Iarfhlaith Davoren’s cross on 83 minutes, as the visitors hung on for a controversial three points.
Sligo Rovers: 1 Richard Brush; 2 Alan Keane, 4 Gavin Peers, 5 Danny Ventre (captain), 3 Iarfhlaith Davoren; 11 Eoin Doyle (18 Lee McEvilly 65), 6 Richie Ryan, 12 John Russell (8 Conor O’Grady 87), 7 John Dillon (16 Derek Foran 38); 15 Joseph Ndo, 10 Padraig Amond.
Subs not used: 17 Ciaran Kelly, 13 Mark Doninger.
Booked: Ventre (28), Ryan (64), Ndo (82).
Sent-Off: Peers (37).
Shamrock Rovers: 1 Alan Mannus; 4 Craig Sives, 5 Aidan Price, 24 Dan Murray (captain), 19 Danny Murphy (23 Thomas Stewart ht); 8 James Chambers (13 Pat Flynn 85), 25 Robert Bayly, 18 Chris Turner; 15 Paddy Kavanagh, 20 Billy Dennehy (6 Stephen Rice 76), 9 Gary Twigg.
Subs not used: 16 Robert Duggan, 14 Graham Barrett.
Booked: Murphy (13), Kavanagh (90).
Referee: Richie Winter (Dublin)