Athlone Town almost snatched a point against Drogheda United at United Park last Friday night.
The home team raced into a two goal lead by half time but were pegged back by Athlone when play resumed. The visitors might even have grabbed a first away point of the season had Nika Kalandarishvili been more accurate in front of the target.
Athlone lost team captain Steven Grogan in the warm up through injury with Rory McCullough coming in from the substitute’s bench. United totally dominated the opening half and should have been well clear at the break.
The only response from Athlone came from corner kicks with a late chance also falling to Tzee Mustapha. Mark Doyle had an early chance for the high flying hosts and it was inevitable that Athlone’s weakness in defence would soon be exposed. Poor marking was punished as Drogheda opened the scoring on 16 minutes.
Doyle, on the left, pulled the ball pack to the unmarked Luke Gallagher who picked his spot in the net from the edge of the penalty area. The lead was doubled midway through the half following a corner kick. Doyle’s volley had been pushed behind by Town keeper Darcy Lawless but the respite was brief.
Former Athlone player Sean Brennan delivered to the near post where Colm Deasy had little difficulty in heading the ball to the net. There was always the danger that the Town would again concede six goals in a repeat of what happened on their previous visit.
Lawless kept the score at just two nil with a number of fine saves. Gareth McCaffrey and Conor Kane were both denied. Athlone had their only chance on the stroke of half time. A quickly taken free kick saw Mustapha get sight of the target but his shot was blocked behind for a corner. Drogheda were now expected to complete the rout when play resumed.
Home fans were surprised in the second half as the visitors staged a comeback that saw them dominate proceedings up to the mid-way point of the half. Aaron Brilly had an early chance but screwed his shot wide. A corner followed and the away pressure continued with McCullough and George Mukete having further chances.
The lead was reduced on 66 minutes with a first goal for recent signing Baba Issaka. A corner kick taken by half time substitute Shane Stokes was headed to the net by the defender. It was a shock for Drogheda and good build up play by Brilly and Mukete should have led to the equaliser. Kalandarishvili however, with the goal at his mercy, only succeeded in pulling his shot narrowly wide.
United were still dangerous with Lawless bringing off another fine save from McCaffreys strike. Athlone’s challenge faded in the closing stages with Robert Manley and Ciaran Kelly coming close to increasing the lead. The visitors finished the game with ten men when Ciaran Grogan picked up a second yellow card for a foul on Brennan.