Athlone Town suffered their second heavy defeat of the season when they were hit for six by Drogheda United at United Park last Sunday afternoon (March 11 ).
Having conceded four in Galway in the season opener, there was little respite for Aaron Callaghan’s men in Louth. The hosts took the lead with just nine minutes played and added a crucial second goal just before the half-time break. Three goals in 10 minutes before the hour mark ended the game as a contest; the rout completed in stoppage time with a sixth Drogheda score.
Athlone never looked comfortable at the back in spite of Callaghan making three changes to the defence. Only right back Aaron Brilly retained his place, as Cormac Raftery and Ian Fletcher returned. In contrast, former Town keeper Paul Skinner had little to do throughout the 90 minutes. The only threat came from dead ball situations, with new signing Rory McCullough enjoying a frustrating debut up front.
After Sean Brennan, Chris Lyons and Lee Duffy all had early chances for the hosts, the inevitable opening goal duly arrived after nine minutes. United captain Jake Hylands strike took a deflection to fly past the keeper’s right into the net. In spite of being under further pressure, Athlone held out until just before the break, only to concede another soft goal. A Brennan free kick after 44 minutes was not fully cleared by the Town defence. The ball was then returned into the penalty box where it hit off Martin Walsh for an unfortunate own goal.
The second half was totally dominated by Drogheda, with Athlone lucky to escape with just a six goal thrashing. Aside from another Athlone corner kick late in the second half, it was all one way traffic.
Goal number three came just three minutes after the restart. Brennan’s corner kick was flicked on by Luke Gallagher to Mark Doyle, who made no mistake with a header. Further goals followed as Drogheda easily wrapped up the points by the hour mark.
The Town defence was unhinged by a long ball forward, and Colm Deasy completed the move with a neat chip over the advancing Nathan Murphy. More comical defending followed when Doyle doubled up on the score sheet, in spite of Murphy’s best attempts at saving.
With only pride to play for, Athlone’s sole response in the second half came from a corner kick with eight minutes remaining. The rout was completed in stoppage time when a corner from substitute Ritchie Purdy was met by Ciaran Kelly, who powered a bullet like header to the net. The final whistle which soon sounded brought relief for the visitors who remain firmly rooted to the foot of the First Division table.
Athlone will be glad to finally get their home campaign underway at the weekend with two games in quick succession over four days. UCD are the visitors on Friday night with Cabinteely then coming to Lissywollen on the Bank Holiday Monday.