Severely disappointed to have suffered an SSE Airtricity League defeat against Shelbourne, Alan Mathews’ Athlone Town will be hoping to earn a positive result when Wexford Youths visit Lissywollen on Friday.
Currently 16 points behind table-toppers Finn Harps, Athlone need to stitch a decent sequence together if promotion is to be attained. That is the stated seasonal mission, but the manner of the loss to a rapidly improving Shelbourne was worrying.
Despite falling behind to a Sean Heaney goal, Athlone replied as a James O’Donnell goal after the restart put them level. O’Donnell subsequently was red-carded in controversial circumstances before Shels claimed victory with goals from Philly Hughes and Dylan McGlade. “We were very disappointed,” Mathews admitted. “From our point of view we gave away three very soft goals. We got back into the game at one all. The referee then sends one of our guys off- a decision I felt didn’t warrant a red card, but we had to get on with it.
“I thought we shot ourselves in the foot. Shels gave a good account of themselves, but I thought our defending at times was poor. You have to keep your discipline.”
Wexford are enjoying a productive campaign sitting pretty in second place in the standings, only trailing Harps by one point. Mathews wants Athlone to bring the intensity and application they demonstrated during the third quarter at Tolka Park. “Regarding our own performance, I felt we didn’t do enough in the first half. We didn’t work the ‘keeper. In the second half I felt we were looking to push on, but we had a player sent off and conceded a second goal in quick succession. You have got to deal with it. Overall it was disappointing because we lost the game.”
Late on, 10-man Athlone went forward in search of an equaliser, but McGlade sealed the deal for Shels. “We took a chance; we left guys man for man at the back to try to see if we could nick something. That is always the risk when you push on like that. The second-half performance was a marked improvement on the first, but when you give away soft goals you are going to get punished,” added Mathews.
He wants Athlone to demonstrate their potential in the coming weeks and months.
“In fairness to Shels they are on a good run now. They are in good shape, they have got themselves in the mix. We just have to look at picking up something from next week’s game now against Wexford. We will look to push on from there.”