Having already suffered nine SSE Airtricity League Premier Division losses on the spin Athlone Town face another severe task when visiting Richmond Park, the home of the champions St Patrick’s Athletic, this evening, Friday.
Last weekend two more unfortunate defeats were added to Athlone’s list as Limerick FC and Dundalk defeated the Midlanders. That both matches could have ended in draws merely added to Athlone’s sense of frustration.
On Monday Athlone were solid and spirited before being undone by a controversial injury time penalty which Richie Towell converted. Unsurprisingly manager Mick Cooke was disappointed. “I am absolutely devastated,” said Cooke. “If you were a neutral and you came to that game and you didn’t know which team was second in the league and which was bottom, you’d say we were the team challenging for the title. We were the better side, outplayed them for long spells and exploited them down their left side.
“Then, in injury time, a decision like that goes against you. It’s infuriating because their player was barely touched. About 15 minutes earlier they had a decision go against them, but you can’t be going around as a referee looking to make up for decisions you may have got wrong earlier, if that was what happened.”
Cooke has located crumbs of comfort from the fact that six of Athlone’s nine reversals have only been by the one goal. That statistic is providing a small bit of encouragement for Cooke. “For us to lose again is horrible and to have nine defeats at this stage of the season is an even worse feeling, but with so many by the odd goal and we should have won half of them.”
On Friday at Thomond Park Athlone were similarly industrious, but Limerick eked out a victory from a match that will be remembered for a penalty save by Town midfielder Sean Brennan.
Pressed into emergency goalkeeping service following the dismissal of custodian Paul Skinner, Brennan amazingly saved Shane Tracy’s spot-kick. “It was a bit mad what happened with me saving the peno, but sometimes you just have to play your part,” Brennan modestly explained.
“That is what I had to do and it was nice to make the save, but it was a huge pity for us not to even get a result.”
Brennan is hopeful that fortune will favour Athlone soon. “It is just not clicking for us for whatever reason,” Brennan said. “We are conceding goals and we are nearly waiting to concede one before we start playing ourselves.
“If we had a bit of luck we could have nicked a draw in Limerick. We created a few chances even when we were a man down. It is hard to keep going when you’re training three or four times a week. It is hard to battle through it.
“Everyone’s head is down at the moment, but we have to just keep going to stay as positive as we can. Hopefully it will turn for us.”