Athlone Town ended their home programme of games in the First Division last Friday night when a first clean sheet secured a point against Cobh Ramblers. It ended a run of twelve straight defeats and is the first point claimed since the end of May when Longford shared the spoils at Lissywollen.
Under 19 player Patrick Kelly came in to make his senior debut in one of three changes to the team beaten a week earlier by Finn Harps. Goalkeeper Darcy Lawless returned between the posts and was mainly responsible for the clean sheet with a series of fine saves during the second half.
The first half had ‘end of season’ written all over it with neither team creating any chances of note. In spite of a bright opening to the game, there was little excitement thereafter as both teams went through the motions. A right wing cross from Craig Donnellan was palmed away by Lawless while Victor Ekanem headed wide from a corner at the other end.
Next action came after 27 minutes when Cobh earned their first corner from which Cian Leonard scooped over. Athlone came more into he game as half time approached. Ian Fletcher had a chance while a Nika Kalandarishvili cross was put behind. Late first half chances also came from corners with Shane Stokes having an effort tipped away by Cobh Keeper Paul Hunt.
There was little improvement when the action resumed after the break with two early Cobh corners the only noteworthy action. The game finally sprung to life just after the midway point. The best chance to date fell to Chris Hull but the substitutes shot was cleared away by Jamie Broderick.
A further corner was earned by Athlone after 71 minutes but soon after, Lawless had to pull off the first of a number of good saves to keep the home team on level terms. Charlie Fleming’s pile driver was superbly pushed over the bar by the promising keeper.
Athlone’s best chance came after 83 minutes when Kyle Hogan almost had a dream introduction. The substitute took aim some twelve yards out but snatched at his shot resulting in the ball going harmlessly wide. Lawless again kept Cobh at bay with another fine save when pushing away a shot from visitor’s sub Dave Hurley.
There was further drama in stoppage time with both teams having opportunities to claim a dramatic win. Four additional minutes were indicated and a Stokes shot was blocked for a corner kick from which Ciaran Grogan fired off target.
At the other end, Cobh might have struck for a last gasp winner. Chris Hull fired goalwards but once more Lawless was equal to the attempt when he pushed the ball over the bar. A brief skirmish followed after the Town goalkeeper was fouled but order was restored, although two Cobh players received bookings for their part in the incidents.
While the time added on eventually stretched towards the six minute mark, the deadlock remained unbroken as Athlones long run of defeats eventually ends.