It was top against bottom last Friday night when Athlone Town entertained Wexford FC and as per the pre-match league table form stood firm with the hosts making it four wins in a row to stay clear at the top of the table.
The final score line might suggest a comfortable victory for the Town but Wexford were always in contention. An early goal for Athlone was not built upon and it only became comfortable in the closing stages when two further goals were added.
The home team were quickly on the attack and Adam Wixted had an early chance to open the scoring but fired over. The winger seven had an even better chance of scoring after 14 minutes but a stooping header just cleared the post.
The opening goal arrived four minutes later. Wixted was the provider this time and Jamie Hollywood was celebrating his first Athlone goal with a neat finish past the keeper.
Wexford’s position at the bottom of the table is a false one and the basement club had the better of the exchanges for the remainder of the half. Midway through the half, Paul Fox fired an inviting ball across the goalmouth from the left. Jack Doherty then sent in a free kick which Paul Cleary headed over.
Wexford carried on where they left off but Athlone could easily have doubled their lead from their first chance after 53 minutes, Wixted setting up Kurtis Byrne but the shot was blocked.
Wexford were generally on the offensive but left themselves open to being punished on the counter attack. Substitute, Shane Barnes, linked up with Wixted but the intended pass to set up Hollywood fell short. As the half progressed, Athlone were still sitting on an uncomfortable lead and it took a great block from Killian Cantwell to deny Wexford after 70 minutes. A dangerous cross from the left by the visitors then just went just wide of the far post.
Athlone had not been playing well but finally made it a little more comfortable with a second goal. Wixted tried a shot which was blocked by replacement keeper Tom Murphy. The loose ball fell to James Doona who made no mistake with a volley to the net.
It was the turning point but Wexford still had a late sting in their tail. A long ball picked out substitute Kyle Robinson who looked set to score when facing Micheal Schlingermann. The Town keeper blocked the shot with his legs and saved the home team. It ended the away challenge and Athlone were on top for the remaining minutes.
Shane Barnes had a shot blocked by the keeper with Wixted and Doona having further chances. The goal of the game arrived after 88 minutes. Byrne played the ball to Barnes who still had some work to do as he faced a defender. A lovely piece of skill though took Cleary out of the equation as the ball was flicked up and then volleyed to the net. A worthy goal to complete the scoring.