Athlone Town secured their first away point when a remarkable comeback saw the visitors draw with high flying Shelbourne at Tolka Park last Friday night.
The Reds went in for the half time break with a two goal lead, but Athlone had levelled matters just after the hour mark. Ian Fletcher gave the Town some hope with an early reply in the second half and Ollie Hamzat completed an amazing turnaround in fortunes when he grabbed the equalizer. Both teams could then have collected full points in an exciting finale. It was the first away point earned by Athlone since June 2017.
The teams had already met four times this season with Shels winning on each occasion. The visitors though had the better opening as Fletcher had a shot saved with the first corner kick following. Shels had a goalscoring opportunity from their first chance after 12 minutes but O’Sullivan’s effort was blocked by Town goalkeeper Darcy Lawless.
The home team earned their first corner kick after 25 minutes which Athlone failed to properly clear. James English picked up on the loose ball and although his cross went over the keeper, Ciaran Grogan was on hand to head the ball over the bar. T
he home team were awarded a penalty kick on 33 minutes when Kyle Hogan pushed over Adam Evans just inside the box. O’Sullivan made no mistake when he sent the keeper the wrong way with the spot kick. The home win looked to have been secured after 44 minutes as English fired low to the net from the right edge of the six yard box.
Athlone appeared to have little to play for when action resumed as Shelbourne were expected to add to their goal tally. Instead, there was a positive response with the deficit reduced after 56 minutes. The ball was not cleared to safety by the home defence. Fletcher got a touch in a crowded goalmouth to send the ball past Dean Delaney’s right.
There was a further surprise for the Reds when Athlone levelled matters on 62 minutes. Substitute Nika Kalandarishvili sent in a cross from the left which Hamzat fired to the roof of the net. It was the first time two goals had been scored by Athlone in 2018.
Shels were rocked and Athlone enjoyed a fine five minute spell leading up to the closing stages. Paddy Kelly had a header saved with Hamzat and Kalandarishvili having further chances. Shelbourne though were still expected to strike for the winner and O’Sullivan looked set to score, but after beating Lawless to the ball saw Kelly get back to clear to safety.
In a tension filled finale, English sent a right wing cross over the bar while O’Sullivan was again denied in the last action of the game. This time his shot was cleared away by Ciaran Burns. The final whistle saw Athlone rightly celebrating. The wait for an away point was finally over.