Athlone Town league play-off aspirations remain in balance despite capital draw


In spite of drawing with the league champions Shelbourne at Tolka Park last Friday night, Athlone Town’s play-off hopes are hanging by a thread.

Bray Wanderers now need just a point from their three remaining games to claim the final spot. The Town realistically needed all three points to stay alive and are now five points behind Bray having played a game more.

Athlone were hoping to capitalise on Shels having already won the title but the Reds had other ideas and a blistering opening 10 minutes should have seen the Town in arrears, the first chance on two minutes saw Micheal Schlingermann pushing away a shot from Brian McManus. Yoyo Mahdy then had two good chances to open the scoring. Aidan Friel also cleared off the goal line as Athlone somehow survived the early onslaught.

Town’s first chance on 16 minutes saw a left wing cross from James Doona clear the bar. The champions had another good chance when Ally Gilchrist glanced a header wide following a corner kick.

Athlone were eventually undone from a similar set piece after 24 minutes. Kevin O’Connor’s delivery saw McManus arrive at the far post and his low shot found the net.

Athlone forced three more corners as the half progressed and managed to level matters after 36 minutes. Glen McAuley delivered a cross from the right which Stephen Meaney headed home at the near post.

Shels had an immediate opportunity to go back in front but George Poynton’s shot was blocked. Shane Farrell’s follow up effort was then put behind. Schlingermann later denied Farrell as Athlone made it to the break on level terms.

The second half contained a lot less goalmouth action as both teams cancelled one another out. Athlone knew they were lucky to be still in the game but could easily have celebrated a rare win in Tolka late on. McAuley’s cross from the right went wide with Derek Daly then drilling a long range strike over the bar.

Kurtis Byrne earned Athlone another corner just after the hour mark but the game already had a draw written on it. Shels Gavin Molloy had a shot saved with 10 minutes remaining but the closing stages saw the Reds defending.

Meaney fired wide after 86 minutes and was involved moments later when the Reds were lucky not to concede a penalty kick. The Town striker was adjudged to have been just outside the box when the foul was committed. It was a close call but it still handed Athlone a decent opportunity to take the lead. McAuley’s low free went around the defensive wall but crept just wide of the far post.

Three additional minutes offered Athlone further opportunities to steal all three points. Meaney had another good chance but the finish was poor with the ball going wide. McAuley then had a chance to silence the home fans but his effort was saved by Brendan Clarke.

Shels unbeaten home run remained intact but the point is of little consequence for Athlone.


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