Caretaker manager Ricardo Cravo steered Athlone Town to their first league win in seven games when a first-half penalty kick from Walter Invernizzi saw off bottom club Wexford FC on Friday night last (April 21 ).
The home side had relieved previous manager Ricardo Monsanto of his duties just hours before kick-off, with coach Cravo now taking charge. Making just one change from the side that had lost in Waterford a week earlier, the Portuguese coach got his new charges away from a dismal run of results which had yielded just a point since beating Wexford in March.
The visitors have struggled to score goals this campaign and even against the worst defence in the First Division failed to convert several second-half chances into scores. The home side had an early opportunity when Jason Lyons fired over following a free kick. Craig Hayes had two attempts on goal saved at the other end. Invernizzi then headed over with the first corner kick following for the Town.
The outcome was decided midway through the opening half from the penalty spot after Dragos Sfrijan was unceremoniously taken down in the box by Wexford captain Craig McCabe. Conor Barry had missed from the spot in Waterford, so Invernizzi assumed responsibility on this occasion. The Uruguayan duly sent the keeper the wrong way with a low strike for his fourth goal of the season.
Wexford responded by earning their first corner and followed up with Hayes having a header saved but Athlone still carried their slender lead into the half-time break.
The second half had an amazing turnaround in fortunes for Wexford, but they were unable to break down a solid Town defence in spite of having several chances to win the game. Four league goals all season told its own tale as somehow Athlone held out to keep a first clean sheet since the season opener.
Colm Coss had an early shot which cleared the crossbar but that was it as far as the Athlone attack was concerned. A Wexford corner inside the first minute set the pattern for the half as Mark Slater and Adam Hanlon were both off target, with Hayes having a shot saved by Igor Labuts. The Town keeper then denied Eoin Porter with a good block, Hanlon and Shane Dunne were also off target.
The onslaught continued right into stoppage time with the feeling that were Wexford to level matters it was only a matter of time before a winner arrived. Owen McCormack headed over from a corner and while Wexford never gave up on their chase for an equaliser, poor finishing was to prove costly.
Goalkeeper Corey Chambers even ventured upfield for the closing stages but he was no more successful that his outfield colleagues as the hosts held out to record a morale-boosting victory.
Athlone hope to have a new manager in place for their next outing, which is against Longford Town at the City Calling stadium on Saturday night, April 29.