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Sligo Rovers 2-2 Drogheda United

Updated: Saturday, 27 Apr 2013 22:35 | Comments

Anthony Elding was once more on target for Sligo
Anthony Elding was once more on target for Sligo

Sligo Rovers failed to take advantage of Friday evening's draw between title rivals St Patrick's Athletic and Derry City as they could only manage a 2-2 draw with Drogheda United at the Showgrounds on Saturday evening.

Graham Rusk struck in the fifth minute of injury time to steal a point for Mick Cooke's men just minutes after Rovers' Aaron Greene thought he had won the game for the Bit o'Red in a pulsating and thoroughly entertaining game.

Declan O'Brien had given Drogs the lead midway through the opening period, only for Anthony Elding to level proceedings as he headed home his tenth league goal of the season on 67 minutes.

Rovers were forced to play the last 23 minutes of the game without full-back Ross Gaynor, who was sent off for an off-the-ball incident following Elding's equaliser.

Sligo started with the same eleven that beat Drogheda by a goal to nil in last Monday's Setanta Sports Cup semi-final second leg.

Manager Ian Baraclough was without long-term injury victim Danny North (knee) along with Ciaran Kelly (fractured sternum), Raffaele Cretaro (thigh) and Seamus Conneely (knee).

Iarfhlaith Davoren missed out through suspension due to a red card he picked up during last week's defeat to St Patrick's Athletic.

Drogs returned west without Ryan Brennan who was their only absentee through injury. Brennan was replaced by Michael Daly, United's only change from their visit to the Yeats County earlier in the week.

Sligo enjoyed the better of the opening stages and almost took the lead with three minutes played courtesy of some hesitancy in the Drogheda defence.

Failing to clear the ball at the edge of his own area, Alan Byrne was robbed of possession by David Cawley, but the Ballina man was unable to beat Gabriel Sava with his low drive.

Anthony Elding was next to go close on eleven minutes as, from a quickly taken free-kick, Joseph Ndo found the league's top scorer in space, but his weak attempt from ten yards wasn't enough to worry Sava.

Drogs had their first sight at goal on 14 minutes, but David Cassidy's speculative shot from distance was comfortably dealt with by Rovers goalkeeper Gary Rogers after some good United play down their left.

Derek Prendergast almost put the Boynesiders in the lead six minutes later.

Cawley was penalised for his high tackle on Daly which resulted in Declan O'Brien's free from the left being nodded on by a Drogheda head inside the Sligo area. Prendergast rose highest, but couldn't steer his header on target.

The Setanta Sports Cup finalists took the lead on 24 minutes through O'Brien.

Again, Cassidy's free kick was again nodded to the back post by a United player and this time the ball fell to the former Dundalk man who calmly squeezed the ball between Rogers and the post

The league champions went in search of an equaliser, but were met with a sturdy Drogheda rearguard.

Sava almost gifted Sligo with an opportunity three minutes before the interval when he spilled Ross Gaynor's cross from deep under the challenge of Elding.

The ball wriggled away from the 26-year-old's grasp but he did just enough to smother the ball at the second attempt with the burly striker ready to pounce.

The second half was eight minutes old when it witnessed its first goalscoring opportunity, and again it fell to Sligo as Greene found Lee Lynch at the edge of the Drogheda area, but his volley was deflected away by Sava.

The Bit o'Red were almost left red faced moments later as Rogers was found dallying on the ball close to goal, before being robbed of possession by O'Brien outside his own area.

The Rovers rearguard did just enough to avert the danger as Gavin Peers blocked down Gavin Brennan's low shot.

Ian Baraclough's side came close again on 63 minutes when Greene drove through the Drogheda defence. The winger was tripped by Shane Grimes, but referee Anthony Buttimer waved play on. The ball then fell to Elding whose shot was well saved by Sava only to end up in the path of Pascal Millien whose header was deflected away for a corner.

The pressure eventually told on 67 minutes when Elding broke free of his marker and sent a glancing header past Sava from a Greene cross to level the game.

Rovers fullback Ross Gaynor was then dismissed for an off-the-ball incident during the celebrations which followed - much to the dismay of his team-mates and the majority of the 2,329 crowd.

Drogheda almost made the numerical advantage pay on 79 minutes as, from an O'Brien corner, substitute Alan McNally hooked the ball to Brenann, but Rogers was equal to the winger's effort as he got his body in front of Brennan's goal-bound drive.

Sligo almost took the lead on 87 minutes when Keane skipped by the challenge of two United defenders only to see his shot diverted away by Byrne before Greene sent the home crowd into delirium on the stroke of 90 minutes.

Substitute Kieran Djilali's run brought him past two Drogheda challenges before he found Danny Ventre whose miss-hit shot fell to Greene.

The pacey winger put just enough power behind his effort to see it graze the post and sneak over Sava's goal-line.

That wasn't the end of the excitement however as Drogheda stole a point five minutes into injury time. Greene failed to control Brennan's cross to the back post and late substitute Graham Rusk, with Rogers stranded and only Gavin Peers on the Sligo goal line to beat - fired into the net to dramatically level the game.

Sligo Rovers: Gary Rogers; Alan Keane, Gavin Peers, Evan McMillan, Ross Gaynor; Pascal Millien, Joseph Ndo, Lee Lynch, David Cawley, Aaron Greene; Anthony Elding.

Subs: Adam Murphy, Jeff Henderson (for Lynch 90+3), Marty Owens, Danny Ventre (for Cawley 84), Kieran Djilali (for Millien 77), Liam Martin, Ryan Connolly.

Drogheda United: Gabriel Sava; Derek Prendergast, Alan Byrne, Shane Grimes, Brian Gannon; Gavin Brennan, David Cassidy, Paul O'Conor, Michael Daly; Declan O'Brien, Gary O'Neil.

Subs: Michael Schlingermann, Stephen Quigley, Philip Hand, Alan McNally (for Prendergast 60), Graham Rusk (for O'Brien 89), Peter Hynes, Eric Foley (for O'Conor 74).

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