Lukas Browning the hero as late strike sees Sligo Rovers draw on opening day of the season

A late goal from Lukas Browning denied champions Shamrock Rovers all three points as Sligo Rovers pulled a goal back late on to draw.

n their opening game of the season, the Bit O’Red fought to the death to find an equaliser, and they got their rewards in the dying seconds when they earned a point.

Shamrock Rovers took the lead early in the first half when Graham Burke’s strike from distance too strong for Luke McNicholas.

The Hoops were reduced to ten in the second half as captain Roberto Lopes was dismissed, giving John Russell’s side a bit of a push for the closing stages.

They pushed and pushed for an equaliser, and it was one of the club’s new signings in Browning who pounced on a poor clearance to strike at the death.

Russell named three new players in his starting 11 tonight; Browning, Johan Brannefalk and Reece Hutchinson all came into the side for the opening game of the season.

Former Rovers man and Sligo native Johnny Kenny was on the bench, with manager Stephen Bradley saying he left the Riverstown man on the bench to protect him in a game that would see him under fierce pressure.

It was clear from the off that this game was going to be one to remember.

With a sell-out crowd of over 4,200 at The Showgrounds to watch this game, the atmosphere would play its part.

The Hoops enjoyed the bulk of possession in the first half, but it was the Bit O’Red who enjoyed the best of the chances.

And, the champions had their goalkeeper Alan Mannus to thank as a couple of super stops prevented the hosts from going ahead.

Brannefalk’s through ball down the right hand side found Max Mata, and the striker’s effort had power but Mannus got his hand to it. 

Another great stop from the veteran denied Kailin Barlow.

Stephen Bradley’s side had a couple of half chances, but they did make the most of their chances when they took the lead on 17 minutes.

An unstoppable run from Burke down the left hand side saw him power his way through the Rovers defence before he picked out his spot and found the net with a powerful drive.

The Bit O’Red may have felt hard done by to go in at half-time behind, but they battled hard in the second half to make their way back into the game.

Kenny was introduced on 65 minutes as one of three Shamrock Rovers changes, and while he was greeted by a chorus of boos from the home fans, there was also plenty of applause for the local lad.

Just two minutes later, the visitors were reduced to ten men when Lopes was sent marching following an altercation with Kailin Barlow.

It was almost 1-1 on 71 minutes when a fabulous Greg Bolger ball found the academy graduate, and he smacked the post from close range.

It was starting to feel as though the tide was turning, and an incredible fingertip save from Mannus on 84 minutes was enough to force Fitzgerald’s effort wide after Eanna Clancy spotted his run.

And with full-time approaching, Rovers kept pushing and were rewarded for their efforts in the dying stages of injury time.

Darragh Nugent’s clearance from a corner fell nicely for Browning who didn’t need any time to think about what he was going to do, scoring his first goal for the club.

Rovers travel to Dublin on Friday night to take on UCD in their first away game of the season.

Sligo Rovers: Luke McNicholas; Johan Brannefalk, Eanna Clancy, Nando Pijnaker, Reece Hutchinson (Karl O’Sullivan 92); Greg Bolger (Stefan Radosavljevic 75), Lukas Browning; Frank Liivak (Fabrice Hartmann 60), Will Fitzgerald; Kailin Barlow (Daniel Lafferty 92); Max Mata.

Shamrock Rovers: Alan Mannus; Daniel Cleary, Roberto Lopes, Lee Grace; Neil Farrugia, Trevor Clarke (Darragh Nugent 64); Markus Poom, Dylan Watts (Gary O’Neill 79); Graham Burke (Liam Burt 64), Jack Byrne (Richie Towell 79); Rory Gaffney (Johnny Kenny 64).

Referee: Damien MacGraith


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