Athlone Town 5 Wexford FC 3 (AET )
Athlone Town put aside their poor league form when advancing to the quarter finals of the FAI Cup at home to Wexford FC last Friday night. An amazing cup tie which saw the visitors twice surrender the lead went to extra time where Athlone scored two goals to seal their passage. Adrian Carberry finally getting his first win since taking over as manager.
The Town’s poor season, which had yet to yield a win, looked set to continue when Wexford raced into a two-goal lead inside the first 20 minutes. Athlone were harshly penalised for handball and Jack Doherty stepped forward to send goalkeeper Aaron Myles the wrong way with the resulting spot kick. The lead was doubled three minutes later when Athlone were again punished, this time for losing possession. Conor English took advantage to volley to the net past the keeper’s right. Lee Duffy had a chance to reduce the deficit but shot straight at the keeper. Wexford could have killed off the tie just before the break but Charlie Smith’s shot on the turn clipped the post.
Athlone turned the tie around with two goals in as many minutes after the break. Ronan Manning reduced the deficit after 52 minutes and Taner Dogan then equalised. The goal rush was well under way but was only halfway there. Wexford restored their lead when James Carroll headed home Conor Crowley’s free kick. Adam Lennon fired off the bar but the tie was sent into extra time with another Athlone equaliser and 10 minutes remaining. Scott Delaney pushed up from defence to make it count when he finished to the net a corner kick from David Brookes. Dean Reynolds had the last chance for the Town in normal time but extra time was now needed to decide the winner.
An amazing comeback was completed by the home team in the first period. The Town went ahead for the first time through an own goal. Athlone were then reduced to 10 men when Duffy picked up a second yellow card. The Town still managed to stretch their lead as the period drew to a close. Manning was again involved in the build-up setting up Lennon for the last score of an eight-goal thriller. There was still another 15 minutes to be faced in the second period but Athlone held firm. The visitors pushed forward but were demoralised and never looked like getting back into contention. The main danger came from a series of corner kicks but Athlone dealt capably with all that was thrown at them. When the final whistle eventually sounded after more than two hours of action, Athlone celebrated their first win of the season.
The quarter finals will not take place until after the league programme is completed with the Town’s season now extended by another three weeks. Remarkably, considering their position at the foot of the First Division table, Athlone are the only non-top flight team in the draw. Possible opponents include league champions Dundalk or cup holders Shamrock Rovers.