ATHLONE TOWN 1 | SHELBOURNE 3
Athlone Town's three game unbeaten run ended when leaders Shelbourne came from behind to win in Lissywollen on Friday night last.
The home team had taken an early lead but still found themselves behind at the break. A third goal late on sealed victory for the Reds.
There was a dramatic opening to proceedings when Athlone took the lead from the first goalmouth action after just four minutes play when the home team's first corner kick, sent in by Kurtis Byrne, saw Stephen Meaney head home off a Shels defender. Unfortunately, it proved to be the only highlight for Athlone as apart from a couple more chances during the second half, Brendan Clarke was hardly tested.
Dayle Rooney had the first away chance while a first corner on 18 minutes should have provided a goal. Kevin O’Connor’s delivery fell to Michael O’Connor who somehow failed to hit the target from close range.
The equaliser came midway through the half. A cross from the left picked out Shane Farrell at the far post and he blasted the ball home. The remainder of the half saw Shels press forward but Athlone looked like holding out for the break, but there was further drama in added time. Ryan Brennan fired a weak shot at the keeper while two corners in quick succession should have been capitalised upon, desperate defending keeping Shels at bay.
As the game headed into time added on, Athlone were undone in a major turning point. The home team were attacking in the Shels half but were penalised for a foul. The resulting free was played up to Michael O’Connor. The strikers shot struck the upright but Rooney was on hand to fire home from close range.
Micheal Schlingermann was replaced for the second half after picking up an injury, Kayleum Rice introduced to make his Town debut. The young keeper was quickly called into action. Athlone rarely threatened but Aidan Friel did have the first chance when firing wide after 50 minutes.
Rice was then called upon to make his first save when he pushed over a shot from John Ross Wilson and four corner kicks kept up the pressure from the table toppers.
Jack Reynolds and Brandon McCann were introduced by Adrian Carberry midway through the half. Derek Daly had the only other Athlone opportunity when his free kick was put behind for the second and final home corner. There was always the chance that Athlone could grab an equaliser as Shels now held back in attack.
The final five minutes though saw a further push for a third goal. George Poynton tried his luck from his own half but the opportunistic attempt drifted wide. The victory was sealed with two minutes remaining when Rooney grabbed his second goal. Athlone failed to clear the danger from a right wing cross and Rooney took advantage.
Shels were soon celebrating a twelfth victory of the season with the title well within their grasp. Athlone remain just outside the play off positions as they trail Bray Wanderers by two points.