A spirited comeback in last Saturday’s SSE Airtricity League First Division clash showed Athlone Town’s potential as they drew with promotion-chasing UCD.
Trailing by two goals to the Students, Athlone, who produced a gutsy performance, responded to earn a deserved share of the spoils. Ryan Swan and Chris Mulhall had pounced for UCD goals before Athlone thundered into the contest as Sam O’Connor and Philly Gorman both scored.
Jack Watson’s dismissal for UCD in the second half ensured there was another issue to be debated, but the most satisfying aspect for Athlone was that their much-improved display was rewarded with a point. From an early stage it was apparent that UCD would try to pass and probe creating chances. Only 90 seconds had elapsed when the visitors could have taken the lead as Jamie Doyle headed over an inviting Mulhall cross.
Athlone carried a set-piece threat with Gavin Boyne drilling a shot wide after a corner had caused panic in the UCD defence. Enjoying a productive campaign, UCD’s smart approach was evident in the 20th minute when they hit the front. Conor Cannon provided the assist for Swan, who rifled UCD ahead with a sharp finish. UCD were unfortunate not to bag again in the 38th minute as another smashing Doyle delivery was missed by a few despairing lunges in the area.
Doyle continued to cause Athlone problems spurning a chance before UCD netted again courtesy of a sublime Mulhall strike. The skilful Mulhall combined with Daniel Tobin and then expertly thumped UCD two clear as Athlone seemed to be on the verge of suffering another disastrous and demoralising result. Despite being under duress Athlone improved as the match wore on with Boyne going close following a Daniel Molloy cross.
Cannon exmained Paddy Dunican’s reflexes, but the deficit was halved when Athlone punished a UCD lapse in concentration. O’Connor was the coolest customer in Lissywollen evading UCD custodian Nial Corbet’s dive to narrow the gap. Watson’s red card vexed UCD, who were now struggling to cope. A strange equaliser from Gorman was a serious blow for UCD, who ought to have nicked a third in the closing stages.
Swan was unable to convert having cut in from the right and Athlone earned a point, while also making one too - about the fact that they won’t go down in any fixture for the rest of the season without a real fight.