ATHLONE TOWN 4 SHELBOURNE 1
Athlone Town became the first team to reach the semi-finals of the FAI Cup following the shock dismissal of Shelbourne at home last Saturday afternoon.
In a huge giant killing act, lowly Athlone knocked out Premier Division opposition and are now just one game away from a final appearance. Dean George had not scored all season but put that right with a marvellous hat trick of goals to prolong the Town's season until the end of the month.
Athlone started in a positive manner and opened the scoring with just four minutes played. George's initial shot was blocked by the goalkeeper, Taner Dogan then sprayed the ball out right to Adam Lennon whose low cross was finished to the net by George.
The lead was shortlived however with a Shel's equaliser four minutes later, Ciaran Kilduff with a low shot to the net past the keeper’s right.
The visitors were expected to push on but again found themselves behind with 20 minutes gone. From the Town's first corner taken by David Brookes, the ball was bundled home by Scott Delaney. Ciaran Grogan thought he had increased the lead following another corner. The ball looked to have crossed the line but the referee was not convinced.
Shelbourne were a major disappointment but Athlone were full value for the win. The hosts never looked back after Aaron Myles made a point blank save to deny Kilduff on the resumption of play.
Jack Reynolds then hit the post with a free kick but a potentially frustrating afternoon was avoided as George completed his hat trick. A third goal came on 66 minutes when Aidan Friel’s pass was intercepted by the Town striker, a low shot past the keeper’s right completing Friel’s misery.
Lennon had penalty claims turned down after 76 minutes but the victory was sealed two minutes later. Tumelo Tlou started the move in midfield when he picked out Manning. A precise pass played in George and a fantastic strike completed his hat trick. The striker was booked for his celebrations but who could blame him as he waved his shirt in delight.
Shels unloaded their substitutes bench in an effort to turn the game around but to no avail. There were few anxious moments for the Town in the closing stages. The policy of keeping the Reds pinned into their own half certainly paying off.
Manning had a shot saved four minutes from the end and also had the last chance in stoppage time. The strike was saved by the keeper and four plus additional minutes brought no further action.
The result sees Athlone advance to their first FAI cup semi-final since 1998. Adrian Carberry was involved then as a Town player and in his first season as manager is once more dreaming of cup glory.
Athlone have been rewarded with another home game in the semi-finals. Another huge task is in prospect though with reigning league champions Dundalk or this seasons Premier Division runners