Athlone Town lose FAI Cup thriller

ATHLONE TOWN 4 WATERFORD FC 4 AET (Waterford win 4-2 on penalties)



(Waterford win 4-2 on penalties )

John Dingle

Waterford FC held their nerve in a penalty shootout to knock Athlone Town out of the FAI Cup on Friday night. Such a dramatic finish seemed unlikely when the Blues made it two nil early in the second half.

The dismissal of Anthony Wordsworth handed Athlone a way back and the home team took advantage to draw level and send the tie into extra time. After over two hours of football had failed to produce a winner it went to penalty kicks. Blues goalkeeper Paul Martin proved to be the hero as he saved two spot kicks to finally break Athlones resistance.

The visitors’ first chance saw John Martin head over the bar following a long throw in. Jack Reynolds had another home chance, but the bright opening faded a little thereafter. Derek Daly had a further home chance with a dipping volley which just cleared the bar but it was the visitors that made the breakthrough. Five minutes before the break Wordsworth sent a left footed shot past the keeper’s right. Corners were exchanged at either end before the half ended.

Athlone again got the action underway with a corner inside the first minute. Waterford survived and doubled their lead after 53 minutes. Junior Quitina passed to Shane Griffin who got past the defensive cover to fire to the roof of the net.

Midway through the half, Wordsworth picked up a second yellow card for kicking the ball away. Home manager Adrian Carberry then made a triple substitution which also influenced the outcome.

Oisin Duffy was unlucky to see his shot come back off the post. Another sub Stephen Meaney was fouled after 74 minutes and Glen McAuley drilled the resulting spot kick low past the keepers left. The equaliser came with six minutes remaining when a throw in fell to Meaney who shot home off the post. It looked like the amazing comeback had been completed after 89 minutes.

Waterford were again penalised and McAuley stepped up to find the same spot in the net with the penalty. Victory was grasped away from the hosts in stoppage time. Five additional minutes were taken advantage of by the Blues. Griffin’s delivery from a corner was headed home by substitute Greg Halford. Both managers were sent off as the tie heated up with Marc Bircham and his assistant Dave Bell first out of the dugout.

Extra time saw Duffy’s shot pushed away with two further corners following as Athlone continued on the attack against the 10 men. Town boss Carberry saw red for his protest over another penalty shout.

There was further drama in stoppage time. In the third additional minute, Waterford’s George Forrest forced the ball home but the lead was shortlived. The ball was played back to McAuley on the restart and his speculative attempt flew over the unfortunate Blues keeper. Penalties followed as Martin became the hero, saving two spot kicks.


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