Athlone Town almost snatched a sensational stoppage time equaliser at home to high flying Drogheda United last Friday night (May 11 ).
Chris Lyons had put the visitors in front early in the second half, but substitute Darren Kavanagh should have levelled matters in the last action of the game. With only the goalkeeper to beat, Kavanagh looked set to score, but instead sent his shot across the goalmouth and just wide of the far post.
For a team chasing promotion, Drogheda were strangely subdued in a game that never came to life. New Town manager Terry Butler had his side well organised and, while creating few chances, Athlone did not look like a team struggling at the foot of the table.
The opening half was lacking any clear-cut chances, with very few shots on target. Darcy Lawless, who was making his debut as Athlone keeper, settled in well and grew in confidence sa the game progressed.
Sean Brennan came closest to breaking the deadlock with a free-kick late in the first half. The first chance had fallen to Lyons, but he fired wide after four minutes. Athlone's first chance fell to Tzee Mustapha, but his shot was blocked with 19 minutes played. Brennan’s prowess from dead balls saw the former Athlone player’s effort punched clear by Lawless, with a second strike after 39 minutes just whizzing wide of the target. No surprise, though, that the half ended scoreless.
The second half was a livelier affair but, once more, few shots hit the target. Shane Stokes fired wide from the right early on for Athlone, but the deadlock was eventually broken after 50 minutes. A right wing cross from Colm Deasy into the penalty box provided the opening. Lyons had time and space to take the ball down and fire home from close range.
Luke Gallagher then fired wide, with Drogheda captain Jake Hyland also off target. Ollie Hamzat came on as a substitute for the home team and was involved in earning his team’s first corner kick on 66 minutes.
Drogheda had lots of possession but lacked the cutting edge to prise open the solid Town defence. Brennan and Ciaran Kelly had further chances for United, but it looked like the single strike from Lyons would prove sufficient to claim the win.
The last chance in the 90 minutes fell to Hyland, but he was off target with a shot from the right. The fourth official indicated that three additional minutes of stoppage time would be played. An injury then pushed the half towards the 50 minute mark.
There was still time for a late twist, as the last goalmouth action of the game almost yielded an equaliser. Kavanagh had replaced Ryan Gaffey and found himself with only Paul Skinner to beat after being played in by Hamzat. The former Town keeper breathed a sigh of relief when the shot fizzed past the post, with the final whistle sounding soon after.
Athlone are in Dublin at the weekend when they face the league leaders UCD at Belfield.