ATHLONE TOWN 0 SHELBOURNE 2
Athlone Town suffered their first league defeat when title favourites Shelbourne returned home with full points last Friday night. The pressure was on the visitors to bounce back from defeat to Cabinteely with the turning point coming on the hour mark. The Reds had taken a first half lead but the outcome was still in the balance. The sending off however of Ciaran Grogan swayed the balance in Shels favour, with the resulting free kick which Ciaran Kilduff finished to the net killing off the Town’s chances of retaining their unbeaten record.
Both Eoghan Morgan and Evan Pierce made their league debut and, in front of a bumper crowd, the Town were quickly on the attack. Dean Williams had an early chance to add to his goal tally but his shot came off the goalkeeper for the first corner kick. A further corner followed but Shels settled and earned their first corner on ten minutes.
Town keeper Aaron Myles pulled off a great save when pushing behind a Ryan Brennan header. Pierce then had a chance to cap his league debut with a goal.The lead though fell to Shelbourne after 24 minutes when the absent defensive cover was exploited. Karl Moore was in acres of space on the left and his cross fell to Ryan Brennan who fired to the net from close range.
Kilduff then came close to making it two nil as Athlone replied with two quick fire corners. Athlone’s best chance in the half fell to Pierce. Kaleem Simon sent in a cross from the left but Dean Delaney did well to parry the shot from the striker. Town’s Kealan Dillon and Shels Kilduff had the last chances of the half.
Athlone were still in contention for a share of the spoils when play resumed but a major turning point came just shy of the hour mark. Kilduff had the first chance on the restart but was denied by the impressive Myles. Athlone lost possession in midfield leading up to the turning point. Grogan was adjudged to have fouled Kilduff on the edge of the box and, being the last man back, was dismissed by the referee. It was a contentious decision and even more so when Shels doubled their advantage from the resulting free kick.
Lorcan Fitzgerald’s strike crashed off the bar but Kilduff came in to head the rebound past the stranded Myles. Conan Byrne was then off target for the Reds as the visitors eased down to the final whistle. Kilduff and Darragh Noone had chances to increase the lead, while Athlone’s opportunity to fashion a consolation score fell to Darren Meenan late on. His shot went wide. Myles ensured the score was kept at two nil as Kilduff once more provided the danger. The former Dundalk striker though could not beat the keeper on this occasion.
The Town will look to bounce back from their first league defeat when they next pay a visit to the Carlisle Grounds to take on table toppers Bray Wanderers.