Shel-shocked by Ogden; Sligo take a giant first step in final.
SLIGO got the goal their attacking play deserved to put the pressure firmly on Shelbourne's shoulders after a pulsating League Cup Final first leg at the Showgrounds last night.
Nicky Reid's side always looked capable of breaking the deadlock with enterprising forays down both wings by Marcus Hallows and Steve Jones, but ironically the vital goal by Neil Ogden came via the direct route.
Ogden's coolly despatched strike with 25 minutes remaining came straight from a Nicky Brujos goal kick.
And Shels must now score two goals without reply at Tolka Park next Tuesday night if they are to win only their second League Cup in the club's history.
Sligo in fact have never won this trophy, but this morning they can almost taste sweet success after an entertaining performance.
Without Stephen Geoghegan, Dessie Baker, Mark Rutherford, Dave Campbell, and Alan Gough, Shels packed the midfield from the start, leaving just David Muir to forage on his own up front.
But they were by no means in a totally negative frame of mind and in an entertaining first half both sides created several good openings.
Sligo player manager Reid signalled his own sides intentions in the third minute with a cross from the left which Shells keeper Stephen O'Brien only flapped at.
Then Padraig Moran - a constant threat throughout - seemed to have burst through the heart of the away defence, only for referee John O'Neill to amazingly call the play back for an earlier hand ball by Shels.
O'Brien showed his real worth soon afterwards as Sligo threatened to lay siege to the Shels goal.
Moran latched onto a quick free kick by Ogden and shot powerfully inside the area, but 26-year-old O'Brien spread himself well to block the effort.
On ten minutes Shels thought they'd grabbed a crucial lead with virtually their first attack of the game.
Mick Neville was fouled outside the Sligo box and Pat Fenlon swung in a dangerous cross - Muir towered above everyone to head past Brujos but as he and his team mates celebrated, the referee was alerted to an offside by a Shells player in the area and goal was ruled out.
Tony Sheridan, another who -excelled throughout, almost silenced the home supporters' jeers seconds later with a powerful volley, which sailed over. But subsequently Sligo enjoyed their best period of the half.
Reid's side always looked dangerous on the right flank and after 19 minutes Hallows found Moran in that position.
He sent in a low cross which 18-year-old Sean Flannery collected before turning sharply to shoot goalwards - indeed a goal looked certain, but O'Brien got a touch to divert the ball over.
However the former Gillingham keeper nearly undid his goal work when he dropped a Paul Morgan cross in the area.
Pat Scully came to the rescue to head a dangerous goal bound chip over. Shels stemmed the tide and uncharacteristically it was the lively Sheridan who dragged Shels back into it.
The former Under 21 international left Hallows for dead on the left flank on 33 minutes before delivering a super cross that bisected the Sligo defence.
Somehow Dean Fitzgerald failed to get his head to the ball as he bore down on goal but after that Sheridan continued to probe and worry the home rearguard.
Hallows made way for Steve Jones as half time approached, and the substitute breathed fresh impetus into his side.
Two excellent crosses, one on the stroke of half time which Moran could have done better with, kept the pressure on Shels.
It was obvious however that the home side didn't want the first half to end. For 20 minutes of the second half they stretched Shels without actually threatening the way they had done in the opening period.
In fact Muir almost stole in again for Shels in that period, racing on to a through ball. But Brujos got there first at the edge of the six yard area.
Sligo desperately wanted their first league cup final win however and out of nothing they made the breakthrough after 65 minutes.
Brujos's mammoth goal kick caught the Shels defence very square, and Moran raced clear of two defenders to squeeze the ball past the advancing O'Brien to score the winner.
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|Publication:||The Mirror (London, England)|
|Date:||Feb 18, 1998|
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