John Russell’s reign as Sligo Rovers manager started off well as his Sligo Rovers side defeated Finn Harps 3-0 at The Showgrounds on Saturday night.
Idan Keena scored his eighth and ninth goals of the season on either side of a brilliant strike from Carl O’Sullivan, giving Rovers all three points against the Harps side, who were desperately trying to avoid relegation.
There have been changes at The Showgrounds since their last game against UCD before the mid-season break, with Russell being appointed manager during the break.
The break lasted a week longer than initially planned, with the game against Dundalk being postponed due to an international call-up.
Tonight’s spectators at The Showgrounds have faced a rough season, winning just one game on the road and losing four of their last five matches.
They were without both Bastian Herry and Ryan Connolly through the suspension, while Dave Webster was also absent.
Ollie Horgan made two changes towards the draw with Derry City, with Harry and Connolly missing, while Yoyo Mahdi and Barry McNamee were coming back in the starting 11.
John Russell also made some changes. Max Mata, Lewis Banks and David Cooley started by suspending Adam McDonnell and Greg Bolger, while Colm Horgan missed out completely.
Bit O’Reid had dropped to sixth after Friday night’s game, while the Harps were still in ninth, just two points below UCD.
Rovers used the brakes to implement Russell’s new philosophy for their side, and it showed the hosts took action from off, going 2-0 up with just six minutes on the clock.
Rovers took the lead after two minutes. Former Harps man Carl O’Sullivan clears his harmless cross by Harps Regard. Fortunately for Bit O’Reid, it came directly in the way of the relentless Keena, who fired his mighty effort in front of McGinley, and the Rovers were in dreamland.
When they were celebrating again, the home fans barely took their seats after celebrating the first goal.
Shane Blaney’s superb diagonal ball from the defense looked to be going into the arms of Mark Anthony McGinley, but the hard-hitting O’Sullivan crossed the Harps netminder and beat him, and his shot on goal between the post. Got to double the spot. Side lead with six minutes on the clock.
This meant that the Harps had an impossible task, and even when the Rovers were comfortable they had to stay on their toes as Ollie Horgan’s side advanced into the game.
Eric McWoods forced an Ed McGinty save in the 12th minute when he defeated Paddy Kirk, but American Rovers could not take away his shot from Netminder.
Rovers had a few chances to extend their lead, but at the break they took a 2-0 lead to cheer for both sides.
Gary Buckley was replaced by Nando Piznekar for the second half, while Harps brought in new signing Dylan Duncan in place of Yoyo Mahdi.
The situation worsened in the second half as the wind and rain continued.
Keena should have made it 3-0 from John Russell in 69 minutes. Mata played Keena through on goal, but the 23-year-old pulled her shot wide.
The Harps were threatening, and while they were seeing the ball very high, Rovers’ clean sheets rarely felt threatened.
Younger Keelin Barlow made his first appearance in the season when he came in the last ten minutes in place of captain David Cawley.
And while the Harps were pressing for some save of late, Rovers hit next.
A lovely ball from O’Sullivan came to Keena, who tucked his shot into the net to make the hosts 3-0 in a Super Night for John Russell and his team.
Bit O’Reid is back in fifth place after a crucial win over Finn Harps.
Next, they travel to County Louth on Friday evening to take on Drogheda United before focusing on European action.
Sligo Rovers: Ed McGinty, Lewis Banks, Shane Blainey, Gary Buckley (Nando Piznaker, 46), Paddy Kirk, Carl O’Sullivan, David Colley (Callin Barlow, 80), Niall Morahan, Will Fitzgerald, Max Mata (Seamus Keogh, 69), Aidan Kina.
Finn Harps: Mark McGinley, Jose Carrillo, Ethan Boyle, Conor Turish, Rob Slavin, Regan Donelon (Mark Timlin, 79), Ryan Rennie, Barry McNamee, Yoyo Mahdi (Dylan Duncan, 46), Eric McWoods, Philip Mihaljevic (Luke Ruden) ) , 82).
Referee: Damien McGrath.