Play-off aspirations revitalised as brave Athlone Town savour away day victory

Athlone Town are back into contention for a place in the promotion play offs after seeing off one of their main rivals last Friday night.

Bray Wanderers went into the game at the Carlisle Grounds eight points ahead but the visitors reduced the gap thanks to Scott Delaney, the centre half’s goal early in the second half proved to be a winner as Athlone kept a clean sheet at the other end.

The Town have now taken seven precious points off Bray in 2021 and were much improved from the previous outing against Cork City, the early stages showing positive signs as to what would unfold later.

Glen McAuley was denied what looked like a genuine goal for offside while Delaney also came close only to be denied by the upright. Dylan Hand then fired wide from the right but there was a let off after 17 minutes from Bray’s first meaningful attack when Richie O’Farrell’s strike was deflected off Delaney but Micheal Schlingermann made a brilliant save, diving to his right, to push the ball behind.

A corner kick from which Bray’s Dylan Barnett fired wide was followed by another corner while Brandon Kavanagh was also off target for the home team.

Athlone too had chances. McAuley was wide while James Doona’s attempted chip was saved with the last chance of the half falling to Athlone’s Tunmise Sobowale but his effort was off target.

Athlone struck for what proved to be the winner four minutes after the restart. Kurtis Byrne’s corner kick picked out Delaney on the edge of the six yard box and his downward header found the net, a lead Athlone would not surrender.

Kavanangh had a chance to level matters only to see his shot saved as McAuley had penalty appeals turned down at the other end. Athlone came close to increasing their lead midway through the half. Byrne was again the provider as he set up Doona but Brian Maher blocked the shot at the expense of a corner.

Gary Shaw was brought on as a sub by Bray in the hope that he could replicate his previous week’s heroics. The Town finished the game strongly and could easily have made the closing stages more comfortable, Oisin Duffy sending in a cross from the right which McAuley almost steered over the line.

Duffy then came close to scoring when his strike from the right flew across the goalmouth. McAuley was once more out of luck after 81 minutes when he was denied by Maher. Wanderers would gladly have settled for a share of the spoils as the game headed towards its conclusion but could not get past a solid away rear-guard.

Five additional minutes were indicated which added to the tension. Another corner afforded Bray one more opportunity to salvage a point from the game, but a foul though saw Athlone relieve the pressure from the resulting free kick. Stephen Meaney come on for McAuley and could have sealed victory from the last action of the game but instead fired wide.

 

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