There was late drama at The Showgrounds on Monday night when Grange’s Seamas Keogh struck in stoppage time to take a first win in six games for Sligo Rovers in a 2-1 win over Derry City – Rovers’ first game since the departure of manager Liam Buckley.
Interim manager John Russell beamed with pride full-time as he watched his team deliver one of their best performances all season, beating a Derry City team that had fallen behind Shamrock Rovers despite a strong start to the season.
Rovers took the lead in the first half through Garry Buckley, while Jamie McGonigle tied the score in the seconds before half-time.
It looked like this would end with a point for both sides, but substitute Keogh shot past Brian Maher and earned all three points on an incredible night for the Bit O’Red.
There was a gloomy atmosphere around The Showgrounds prior to kick-off due to the departure of the popular Liam Buckley.
But the show must go on. And John Russell took charge of a side looking for a third home win of the season and a first in six games.
He made two changes to the side that lost 2-1 to Bohemian on Friday night – Paddy Kirk and Adam McDonnell got into the starting 11 with David Cawley and Robbie McCourt missing through injury.
Derry City by Ruaidhri Higgins had lost two and drawn two in the previous four games, and came to The Showgrounds to reverse their form.
Higgins also made two changes after Friday night’s defeat to Dundalk – Ciaran Coll and Matty Smith slumped to the bench with James Akintunde and Danny Lafferty in battle.
It was an even start to the match, with neither side willing to take too many risks at that stage of the match.
The deadlock was broken with 20 minutes on the clock. Adam McDonnell’s corner came to Buckley, who forced him into the net at the corner to give Rovers the lead.
Brian Maher in Derry’s goals made a good save from an attempt by Karl O’Sullivan in the 24th minute, before Derry broke forward courtesy of Joe Thomson, but clever goalkeeping by Ed McGinty denied Derry an equaliser.
Maher had to be on the alert to save Karl O’Sullivan’s attempt and collect the loose ball before Adam McDonnell could get there.
McGinty made a good save from a header from close range before Derry tied the score again.
With seconds left until halftime, Buckley’s attempted clearance hit his teammate Colm Horgan, with the ball bouncing nicely for the league’s top scorer, McGonigle, who finished cleanly past McGinty to make it 1-1.
Thanks to Rovers, their heads never fell after the equalizer conceded and they worked hard in the second half to force another goal.
Brian Maher made good saves a number of times to dismiss McDonnell as Rovers had good possession, with Colm Horgan’s effort also seeping wide.
A dangerous-looking free kick from Will Patching was held well by McGinty, before McGonigle nearly made it 2-1 when he got behind the Rovers defence, but his effort went wide of mark.
This match ended in a 1-1 draw, but substitute Seamas Keogh had other plans.
After making room in the penalty area to clear the shot, Keogh’s effort was saved by Maher, before The Showgrounds exploded moments later.
Three minutes into extra time, Keogh somehow found room in an overcrowded box and fired his powerful effort at close range into the back of the net to take the win at death.
What followed were emotional scenes, especially for Keogh who hasn’t seen much game time his season.
It was the kind of victory that will have brought everyone together, both on and off the pitch, as Rovers struggle through a rough patch.
The Bit O’Red, under interim manager John Russell, will travel again to Dublin this Friday to face UCD in their final game before the mid-season break.
Sligo Rovers: Ed McGinty; Colm Horgan, Shane Blaney, Garry Buckley (Nando Pijnaker 70), Paddy Kirk; Niall Morahan (Seamas Keogh 86), Greg Bolger; Will Fitzgerald, Adam McDonnell, Karl O’Sullivan (Cillian Heaney 82); Aidan Keena.
Derry City: Brian Maher; Eoin Toal, Shane McEleney (Ciaran Coll 78), Cameron McJannet; Ronan Boyce, Danny Lafferty (Matty Smith 60); Cameron Dummigan (Brandon Kavanagh 26), Will Patching, Joe Thomson; James Akintunde, Jamie McGonagall.
Referee: Paul McLaughlin.