A 74th-minute penalty from Ronan Coughlan against his former moved Sligo Rovers up to fourth place and the win for Harps at Dalymount Park means City are four points adrift at the bottom with just one league game left.
Having led 1-0 at half-time thanks to Junior Ogedi-Uzokwe’s early goal, Sligo were pegged back as City sub Dylan McGlade netted a free kick midway through the second half and there was a period after the equaliser where the visitors looked likelier to score the game’s third goal.
However, they couldn’t find the lead and, when City couldn’t clear a Sligo corner, goalkeeper Liam Bossin fouled Ogedi-Uzokwe and Coughlan converted the resultant spot-kick.
"We’re down at the bottom of the table, and we're down there for a reason. It showed today - It's just not good enough."
Interim City boss Colin Healy reacts to tonight's defeat.
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— Cork City FC (@CorkCityFC) October 24, 2020
Early in the first half, City had been awarded a penalty when Alec Byrne’s shot from outside the area was adjudged to have hit the hand of Sligo defender John Mahon but Kit Elliott’s shot-kick was well saved by Ed McGinty for a corner.
That was in the eighth minute and just two minutes later Sligo were in front as a McGinty free-kick from deep cleared the City defence and Ogedi-Uzokwe latched on to the loose ball and slotted past Bossin.
While City tried to respond well, they couldn’t create many clear-cut chances, even though Sligo didn’t really threaten much for the rest of the first half, either.
The introduction of Cian Bargery for the second half helped to bring a greater threat to City as they switched to a 4-3-3 and Cian Coleman and Beineón O’Brien-Whitmarsh had chances before McGlade’s equaliser on 64. Having just come on, the winger sent in a low free kick from the left edge of the penalty area and the ball went all the way to the net.
With their tails up, City pushed for a lead goal and, in quick succession, Coleman had a shot saved, Bargary fired over from distance and Jake O’Brien got his head to an O’Connor free kick but McGinty denied him. Their momentum was punctured though as Sligo re-took the lead and though Bargary shot over after a good run and Coleman drew a fine save from McGinty following good work by sub Cian Murphy, an equaliser couldn’t be found.
City’s relegation was confirmed later Saturday night as Finn Harps stunned Bohemians with a 2-0 victory at Dalymount Park.
A goal in either half from left wing-back Mark Russell earned the Donegal side an unlikely win and confirmed Shamrock Rovers as champions without the Hoops needing to step on the field.
Bohs full-back Anto Breslin and Harps midfielder Leo Donnellan were both shown straight red cards for separate incidents late on as Harps ensured they’ll face a relegation play-off at worst.
Ollie Horgan’s side hadn’t played in three weeks owing to Covid-19 postponements but have been in decent form with just one defeat in their last seven games.
Bohs had the better of the early play and Keith Ward drew a save from Mark McGinley on 19 minutes but gradually Harps got on top and turned it into an opening goal on the stroke of half time.
A long Tony McNamee throw was flicked on by Stephen Folan and Russell, tussling with a defender with his back to goal, hooked the ball with the outside of his left boot into the top corner.
It was a moment of real quality in a game that had lacked it, and within six minutes of the resumption Harps were two goals to the good thanks to a sweeping attacking move.
Tony McNamee released Adam Foley on the right and, with right-back Andy Lyons, pulled in by Barry McNamee’s near post run, Foley picked out Russell arriving in space.
The wing back still had plenty to do as he bent a low shot away from goalkeeper James Talbot and into a postage stamp-sized gap in the bottom corner.
Meanwhile Drogheda United will secure their return to the Premier Division on Tuesday once they get a better result at Cabinteely than Bray Wanderers do against Athlone Town.
Wanderers let top spot slip from their grasp Saturday night when they lost 1-0 to Galway United through Carlton Ubaezuonu’s stoppage-time winner. Drogs, relegated to the First Division in 2017, regained control of the title race by seeing off Wexford Youths at United Park.
Veteran defender Derek Prendergast gave them the lead on 19 minutes by finishing after Hugh Douglas knocked a corner from Chris Lyons into his path. Mark Doyle squandered a couple of chances to double the lead in the second half before eventually killing the game with ten minutes left by latching onto Jake Hyland’s pass and beating goalkeeper Karl Fitzsimons.
They take a one-point lead into the final series of matches, aware any slip-up at Cabinteely would allow Bray profit provided they prevail in a more winnable fixture at struggling Athlone.
At the Carlisle Grounds, both sides needed wins for different reasons and Galway grabbed it at the death to stay in contention to snatch a play-off berth.
Galway struck on the counter, with substitute Ubaezuonu springing the offside trap to volley the winner beyond Brian Maher.
John Caulfield’s Tribesmen remain deadlocked with Cobh Ramblers on 26 points, two of Cabinteely who occupy fifth and the last of the four play-off spots.
: McGinty; Banks, Buckley Mahon, Donelon (Cooper 77); Seymore, Morahan; Devers, DeVries (Noone half-time), Ogedi-Uzokwe; Coughlan.
: Bossin; Olowu, O’Brien, O’Connor; Ochieng, Coleman, Byrne (McGlade 60), Morrissey, Hurley (Bargary half-time); O’Brien-Whitmarsh (Murphy 80), Elliott.
: R Hennessy (Clare).