UCD had little difficulty in getting back to winning ways as a Georgie Kelly hat-trick helped the students to a first win in four outings against Athlone Town at the Bowl last Friday night (July 21 ).
Kelly had completed his hat-trick by the hour mark, while a fourth goal with 12 minutes remaining sealed the home win.
Enda Curran made a return having come back to Athlone after a spell with neighbours Longford, but the striker could not impact on the game and was replaced in the second half. An early chance had fallen to Curran, but once the hosts took the lead after just six minutes the outcome was inevitable. The first corner kick of the contest was not cleared by Athlone and when the ball was returned to the penalty area from the right, Kelly struck for the opener.
Ethan Keogh and Colm Coss had further chances for the Town, but UCD could have doubled their lead just after the half-hour mark when Igor Labuts did well to save at the second attempt an effort from Jason McClelland. As half time approached, the UCD number 11 came even closer to scoring when he crashed a free kick off the bar after Kelly had been fouled by Stephen Walsh. It proved to be only a temporary let-off, as on 42 minutes the lead was doubled.
Further indecision in the Town defence allowed Kelly the desired opening, and he took advantage by cracking a strike to the roof of the net. Keogh should have cut the deficit moments later but somehow scooped his shot off the bar after a Liam McCarton cross from the right fell nicely for him inside the box.
Sean McGrane came on for Keogh for the second half and had a couple of chances to make an immediate impression as Athlone pushed forward in search of goals. The game was killed off as a contest, however, when Kelly grabbed his third of the night after 58 minutes. The First Division’s top scorer made it a round dozen for the season with a neat header to the net from a Simon Power cross. Six of those scores have now come against the hapless Athlone defence.
McGrane and fellow substitute Jason Lyons had chances for the visitors, but goalkeeper Niall Corbet generally had little difficulty in keeping a clean sheet. The victory was sealed after 78 minutes when the impressive McClelland fired to the far corner of the net after Labuts had parried an initial strike from substitute Neil Farrugia. Athlone could not manufacture even a consolation score in the closing stages as a corner and a Rob Spelman strike failed to trouble the home rear-guard. The Town’s away-day blues continue.
The last series of games in the division starts with a visit to the RSC to take on league leaders Waterford FC on Friday night (July 28 ), with the Blues looking to maintain their unbeaten home record.