Sligo Rovers 3-4 Dundalk
Chris Turner completed a remarkable recovery from Dundalk as they came from two goals down in the final quarter of the game to defeat Sligo Rovers 4-3 at the Showgrounds on Saturday evening. The Lilywhites looked dead and buried after a double from Matthew Blinkhorn and a Rafael Cretaro strike left the hosts in a commanding position. However, substitute Tiarnán Mulvenna gave Sean Connor’s men hope before Turner struck twice to seal the most unlikeliest of wins.
Sligo were ahead early on when Blinkhorn’s looping header at the back post beat goalkeeper Peter Cherrie. It was a lead which lasted less than ten minutes, however, as Michael McGowan netted his first club goal before the quarter-hour when his powerful shot from the edge of the area found the net. Blinkhorn then restored Sligo’s lead on the half-hour and Cretaro extended it shortly after the break as Paul Cook’s side entered cruise control. However, Mulvenna rose from the bench and pulled one back with a superb effort, before Turner’s late intervention.
Dundalk showed two changes from the team which started the defeat by Saint Patrick’s Athletic six days earlier as Mulvenna and the injured Mickey Collins made way for Shaun Kelly, who returned from suspension, and Darren Mansaram. Sligo made light of their own selection problems in the opening exchanges as they hit the front after just five minutes. Owen Morrison provided the assist as his deep cross from the right was met by Blinkhorn whose header found its way over Cherrie. The English-born striker, who only joined Sligo last month, almost doubled his tally moments later but this time his powerful effort was tipped over by the visiting ‘keeper.
It was a save which kept Dundalk within touching distance and they drew level on 14 minutes when Sligo were unable to clear a free-kick, the ball dropping kindly to McGowan who powered a shot beyond Richard Brush. Blinkhorn was proving to be a difficult force for the Dundalk defence to handle, and he almost got on the scoresheet again midway through the half but his shot was gathered by Cherrie. The visitors were finding chances hard to come by, but they should have taken the lead just short of the half-hour when McGowan’s effort was cleared off the line. And, just seconds later, Sligo regained the lead as Cretaro turned sharply inside the area and fed Blinkhorn who fired home.
That strike gave Sligo the advantage at half-time and they added to their lead eight minutes after the break when Cretaro found the bottom corner after feeding off some fine work by another recent signing, Eoin Doyle. The home side had the ball in the net again moments later but Michael McGrath’s goal was ruled out for offside. In a bid to get back in the game, Connor made a double substitution before the hour-mark when Paul McAreavey and Mulvenna entered. And, it had the desired effect as, ten minutes later, the latter scored his second goal of the season with a wonderful shot to give Dundalk some hope. McAreavey then played his part as he was fouled inside the box by former Drogheda United defender Joe Kendrick, enabling Turner to level the sides as he converted his eighth penalty this league term.
However, that was not the end of the scoring as there was still time for one further twist, as the Lilywhites grabbed a late winner when Turner’s thunderous shot from outside the area found the back of the net with just five minutes remaining. It was an almost identical comeback to that which saw Dundalk defeat Kildare County 4-3 in November 2007 after the Louth club had trailed 3-1 with less than a half-an-hour remaining, and it sets them up nicely ahead of a busy week of action which sees them face Bray Wanderers in the league on Tuesday before welcoming Bohemians to Oriel Park for a mouth-watering FAI Cup clash next Friday.
SLIGO ROVERS FC (4-4-2): Richard Brush; Romuald Boco, Alan Keane, Joe Kendrick, Richie Ryan; Owen Morrison, Conor O’Grady, Michael McGrath, Eoin Doyle (Dean Marshall 69); Rafael Cretaro, Matthew Blinkhorn.
Goals: M Blinkhorn (5, 30), Cretaro 53).
Booked: R Cretaro (41), M McGrath (86)
Unused Subs: Ciaran Kelly (GK), Rob Turner, Christopher Kelly, Brian Cash.
DUNDALK FC (4-4-2): Peter Cherrie; Simon Kelly, Thomas Heary, Liam Burns, Kevin McKinlay (Paul McAreavey 58); Shaun Kelly (Michael Coburn 78), Ger Rowe, Chris Turner, Michael McGowan; Darren Mansaram, Alex Williams (Tiarnán Mulvenna 58).
Goals: M McGowan (14), T Mulvenna (68), C Turner (75 pen, 85).
Booked: C Turner (58), M McGowan (64), T Mulvenna (65), D Mansaram 79.
Unused Subs: Chris Bennion (GK), James Creaney.
Referee: Declan Hanney (Dublin).