AUTHOR: Kieran Burke – @Kieran_B_Sport
Sligo Rovers took up the position of league leaders on Friday night after a battling display in the Midlands saw the “Bit O’Red” run out 1-0 winners away to Longford Town. While the “N4” derby may not receive the same billing as some of the more high-profile derby games in the league this meeting of the near neighbors was certainly played as if bragging rights were almost as important as the three points on offer with real endeavor and battling qualities on show from both sets of players throughout. As a result, the quality of the game was far from what you’d have expected from two teams who usually like to get the ball down and play fluid attacking football and after the game, Sligo Rovers manager Liam Buckley offered a number of explanations behind the agricultural nature of Friday’s affair.
“The quality of the game at times it was a scrap, the pitch played bouncy this evening it wouldn’t have helped either team in terms of their passing and keep in mind both teams were pressing high up so if you make a mistake passing out from the back then teams will struggle with the way it (the pitch) played this evening so that had a bearing on our performance, but from our point of view it’s a great three points on the back of last week and this week I’m delighted” declared Buckley.
While Longford Town’s ground staff may argue with Liam Buckley’s views on the Bishopsgate playing surface there’s no doubt for one reason or another there was a lack of quality on show from both sides in Friday’s Premier Division clash with a set-piece eventually settling the tie as on forty-six-minutes Garry Buckley was alert off a second ball inside “De Town” penalty area to head past Lee Steacy and ultimately earn Sligo the win. Defending set-pieces was a huge Achilles heel for Longford in the First Division last term so while Daire Doyle and Town’s coaching staff will hope this isn’t the start of similar issues in 2021 Liam Buckley was naturally delighted with his team’s ability to find another way to win given their lackluster display in general possession on the night.
“We do work on our set-pieces but we also work on our general play and how we create chances for our front three but we couldn’t just do that this evening” replied Buckley who was clearly delighted to be heading back to Sligo with another win on the road in the bag given Longford’s second-half performance.
While defending champions Shamrock Rovers sent out a message of intent with their win over Dundalk live on RTE last night some of the Hoops other perceived title challengers this season such as Bohemians have endured sluggish starts to their campaign which makes one ponder just what’s the limit in terms of success for Sligo Rovers this season? Asked where he feels the men from the West can go this season Buckley was keen not to shift focus any further than next week’s visit of the champions to the Showgrounds.
“We’ll just take it as our next match which is Shamrock Rovers, it’ll be a good gauge of where we are at but we can look forward to it after a good start and we just want to continue that on next weekend,” said Buckley.
Down the years the battle of the Rovers has always been a huge occasion particularly for the Sligo faithful who of course refer to their Hooped rivals as “shams” but with the “Bit O’Red” going into the game as league leaders a win over the defending champions could really give Sligo’s hopes of a strong 2021 season a shot in the arm in these Covid-19 times. Offering some further thoughts on the visit of Stephen Bradley’s men to Sligo next weekend Liam Buckley remarked: “We’ve got some really good players in our group and I don’t think we’ve shown the quality we have within our group as of yet, I do see us as being in a bit of a transition at the moment quite like a few other teams as we’ve got a few new players in and we’re bedding them in so I do see us getting better as the season goes on and please God we can push on next weekend.”
Asked about squad depth and his array of options across the squad this season “Bucko” again repeated the fact things may take time as new teammates become familiar with each other and the style of play being asked of them at Sligo Rovers this season.
“I’m delighted (with the signings), we signed well, individually we’ve got a lot of good players, collectively we need to bed them in and have a style about ourselves, can we do that? Yes we can, we just need to understand a few bits and pieces about how we’re going to get there and once we do I believe we can push on” concluded the victorious manager on the night.
— Between the Stripes (@betweenstripes) April 2, 2021