Blues for Athlone as league season ends without an away win

Athlone Town goalkeeper Dylan Owens saves at the feet of Jake Mooney. 
Photo: Ashley Cahill/AC Sports Images

Athlone Town goalkeeper Dylan Owens saves at the feet of Jake Mooney. Photo: Ashley Cahill/AC Sports Images

Athlone Town have gone through the 2016 League campaign without an away win, as yet again the bottom club failed to shine on their travels.

Waterford United ran out winners by three goals to nil at the Regional Sports Centre last Sunday as a first-half penalty was added to after the break by further goals. The Blues had a man sent off late on, but the visitors were a beaten team by this stage and could not grab even a consolation score.

The Town had last won in the league away from home in the final game of the 2015 season and looked to take full points once more. Waterford appeared ripe for picking off having recently parted company with manager Roddy Collins and also lost a number of senior players as Derek Browne once more took temporary charge.

Athlone showed two changes to the side that had narrowly lost to Limerick five days earlier as Aidan Byrne and top scorer Conor Barry returned in place of Roy King and Ryan Gaffey, who both dropped to the substitute’s bench. While the home side had a lot of early possession, it was Byrne who came closest to opening the scoring with a shot on target after eight minutes.

Goalkeeper Dylan Owens then made a good save to deny Dean Walsh, who had fired goalwards from outside the penalty area. Midway through the half the Town keeper was again in commanding form as he claimed a low cross from Sean Noble, while at the other end the woodwork rescued the Blues as Athlone attacked. A good cross from Jason Lyons picked out Barry at the far post and he looked set to add to his goal tally only to see his strike hit the upright and let the hosts off the hook.

Owens continued to look impressive between the posts but was helpless to prevent the Blues from taking the lead from the penalty spot just after the half hour mark. Claudio Silva fouled Walsh and David O’Leary made no mistake with the resulting spot kick as he blasted to the top corner. It could have been two nil moments later as David Osaserie was put through on goal but he could not finish to the net.

Silva was hauled off just before the break as Michael Monaghan joined the action, but the action ended in the half with Waterford still holding a narrow advantage.

The second half was 10 minutes old when the Blues doubled the lead, Walsh well placed to take advantage when Owens could only parry a shot from Dara Keane. Athlone still kept trying to get back into contention and just after the hour mark had a great chance to reduce the deficit, but United keeper Matthew Sheehan pulled off a great save to deny Barry who had connected well with a Byrne cross into the danger zone.

Barry was out of luck throughout the afternoon and with 12 minutes remaining had another chance from a free kick. However, inspite of clearing the wall he could not find a way past Sheehan.

Gaffey then came on in place of Chris Reid but the next chance after 80 minutes led to the Blues wrapping up the points with a third score. Walsh had been impressive throughout and his fine performance was capped with a goal which saw the striker round the keeper and complete the scoring.

There were a few anxious moments for Waterford in the closing stages when Roy Butler headed off for an early shower after picking up a second yellow card, but Athlone were unable to take advantage of their numerical superiority. In fact, it was the Blues that had the last chance as Jake Mooney connected with a Walsh cross but saw his headed effort saved by Owens.

Athlone wrap up their 2016 season on Saturday night when they welcome Cobh Ramblers to the Midlands. Stephen Henderson’s men need a win to guarantee them a place in the promotion playoff against either Drogheda or UCD who clash in United Park. A victory for the home side could lift them off the bottom provided Cabinteely fail to also claim full points.

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