Sligo Rovers’ quest for a league and cup double is still on track after they knocked defending champions Derry City out with a narrow 1-0 victory. Raffaele Cretaro’s first-half goal was enough to see the Bit o’ Red through, despite a late rally from the visitors. Sligo wasted a number of clear openings in the second-half, and withstood some late pressure from Derry to see themselves safely in to Monday’s semi-final draw.
Sligo began much the brighter side and looked to be dealing well with the early onslaught of rain in blustery conditions. Man-of-the-match Alan Keane twice escaped the attention of the returning Eoghan Osborne at left-back, last ditch defending from Ryan McBride and Simon Madden denying the hosts an opener.
That the Bit o’ Red were ahead in the 15th minute was little surprise, and it came courtesy of a defensive error from Shane McEleney. Joseph Ndo launched a hopeful ball into the Derry City area, McEleney faced what appeared to be the simplest of tasks in clearing. But when the centre-half completely missed the ball, it fell to Cretaro who, back to goal, flicked the ball underneath Gerard Doherty to open the scoring.
The fact that the Candystripes failed to muster a serious effort on goal in the opening period was simply indicative of Ian Baraclough’s side's dominance, City have lost all of their previous six encounters against Sligo, and it was almost imperative they did not concede before the interval.
On the stroke of half-time, Aaron Greene waltzed through two away defenders and squared to Danny North, whose low shot was deflected just wide by Simon Madden. Indeed, Derry had only beaten their north-west rivals once in their last 14 outings, that victory needing extra time and penalties, so the prospect of a second-half turnaround was most unlikely.
The hosts picked up where they had left off, and Cretaro’s driven ball from the right byline was sliced wide by North less than two minutes after the restart. But City were beginning to find some sort of foothold and neat play saw Simon Madden race clear on the right and his cross fell for Barry McNamee, whose shot was hacked clear.
Although the Foylesiders looked rejuvenated, Sligo should have extended their lead when Keane crossed for North, who miscued his shot from two yards out. Sligo were continuing to catch the Candystripes on the counter, but it was Declan Devine’s men who finished the stronger.
Rory Patterson had a late penalty appeal waved away, whilst two injury-time strikes from substitute Michael Duffy – the latter a fierce drive from 25 yards – were kept out by Gary Rogers.
Sligo join Shamrock Rovers, Dundalk and either Drogheda United or Finn Harps in the semi-final draw, whilst the result represents a 10th defeat in 14 games for City.