Basement battle ends in a share of the spoils

Defender Cormac Raftery had a goal scoring return to the team as he sent Athlone into a half time lead at Ferrycarrig Park. Photo: Ashley Cahill/AC Sports Images

Defender Cormac Raftery had a goal scoring return to the team as he sent Athlone into a half time lead at Ferrycarrig Park. Photo: Ashley Cahill/AC Sports Images

Following the mid-season break, Athlone Town returned to action last Friday night (June 16 ) with a visit to Ferrycarrig Park to take on Wexford FC.

Roddy Collins' men had already beaten the bottom club twice this season, but had to be content with a share of the spoils on this occasion following a two-all draw. The home side opened the scoring, but Athlone were ahead at the break thanks to goals from Ryan Gaffey and Cormac Raftery. Wexford equalised within a minute of the restart and neither side was able to grab a winner before the final whistle.

Since beating Wexford at the same venue in March, Athlone failed to collect a single point on their travels with a poor run of seven straight defeats in all competitions. It again looked bleak for the visitors when Wexford took a shock lead after eight minutes. Thomas Croke got on the end of a long throw from team captain Craig McCabe to head home from close range.

The reply was instant as Athlone levelled matters three minutes later. David Brookes was fouled by Ricky Fox on the left. Conor Barry took the resulting free kick which flew across the goalmouth, with Gaffey arriving at the far post to get his head to the ball.

Athlone then had the chance to take the lead after 15 minutes but Barry volleyed over. The Town number eleven had another great chance to score later in the half but was again off target. Adam Hanlon was denied by goalkeeper Igor Labuts on two occasions as both teams went in search of the lead.

Athlone made the breakthrough on 38 minutes as Wexford were again punished following a free kick. After Gaffey was fouled by Thomas Croke, Barry again delivered the free kick into the penalty area, where Raftery headed home after goalkeeper Corey Chambers failed to collect the ball.

There was still time for Mark Slater to test Labuts from a free, with the Wexford player coming even closer in the final minute. This time his free kick delivery hit the post with the rebound sent wide.

The lead lasted less than a minute on the resumption of play as Athlone were caught cold. Wexford attacked down the left and when the ball was not cleared by the Town defence, Slater pounced to find the net with a low strike. It was the first time Wexford had scored more than one goal in a game in 2017 and was to earn the bottom club a precious point.

The visitors tried to regain the lead, with Barry heading over a free kick and Jason Lyons also off target. The best chance of a late winner came with five minutes remaining, but Lyons, with the goal at his mercy, fired harmlessly wide. Athlone suffered a further blow in the final minutes when top scorer Walter Invernizzi was stretchered off following a clash in the penalty area.

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