With Finn Harps setting the pace in the SSE Airtricity League First Division, Athlone Town were under pressure to record a win at Lissywollen last Friday night against Waterford United, but Eddie Wallace’s compact side remained cool to take the full complement of spoils.
The spirited success over Waterford achieved courtesy of a Gavin Boyne goal ensures Athlone trail the table toppers by six points.
Waterford might be rooted to the bottom, but they were resilient and organised throughout a tense match which was decided by a 75th-minute Boyne header. The former St Patrick’s Athletic midfielder continues to impress for the Midlanders, who bounced back following a couple of disappointing results.
Having only taken one point from their previous three matches Athlone were particularly anxious to make an impact as Waterford’s recent record has been surprisingly poor. Waterford had only registered a single victory this season, but they were defiant despite Athlone controlling the majority of the contest.
Sam O’Connor did rattle the Waterford net in the opening period, but the goal was ruled out for offside. Still Athlone continued to dictate the match and they were rewarded 15 minutes from time when landing an important blow.
Derek Doyle’s long delivery found Gary Burke, who crossed for Boyne, who nodded Athlone into a deserved lead. But Eddie Wallace’s side were fortunate to survive a real scare in the 81st minute when Waterford came within a whisker of grabbing an equaliser.
Anthony McAlvey’s free kick drifted inches wide as Waterford nearly pinched a dramatic leveller. Relieved not to have leaked a goal Athlone were themselves denied by the woodwork in the closing stages when substitute Garbhan Coughlan thumped a shot off the crossbar.
The re-signing of Ian Sweeney will give Wallace another exciting attacking option for the remainder of the campaign.
Athlone travel to St Colman’s Park for a demanding fixture with a vastly improved Cobh Ramblers outfit on Saturday.
Since Stephen Henderson returned as boss, Ramblers have enjoyed some encouraging results during the past fortnight. Last weekend’s draw at UCD offered more evidence of Cobh’s potential as Henderson is constructing a hard-working team.
Considering Athlone’s difficulties before the Waterford win Wallace’s squad will know all about Cobh’s determination on home turf. It promises to be a crucial and revealing encounter for Athlone, who will be striving to narrow the gap on Harps, who face Cabinteely in Blackrock on Friday.