Willow Park consolidated their position at the top of the Leinster Senior League Division 1B when they got the better of Mullingar Athletic.
In an all Westmeath clash played last Friday night at DPD Park, the home side scored three times in the second half without reply. Athletic though, proved difficult to overcome as only two late goals put the gloss on the final score for Declan Holohan’s men.
Athletic were the better team in the opening stages, but the first half was generally poor with little goalmouth action at either end. The first corner kick was earned by Mullingar with Dean Clarke then firing wide. Willow forced their first corner on 20 minutes as two subsequent free kicks from Ryan Gaffey and Conor McCormack failed to find the target. Two further corners followed but it was no surprise when the half ended scoreless with Athletic the happier after a low key 45 minutes as the table toppers struggled to come to life.
The second half was much improved with Willow taking the lead after 55 minutes having earlier survived a goal line clearance. The first chance of the half should have seen the visitors hit the front as Darragh Kiernan had a golden opportunity to be the Mullingar hero. Dylan McGoey failed to cut out a right wing cross with the ball then falling nicely for Kiernan. The keeper quickly recovered though and combined with centre half Jack Quinn to block the goal bound strike.
It proved crucial as Willow took the lead moments later. Aaron O’Neill passed to Gaffey on the left. The striker’s low cross into the penalty area was diverted into his own net by a Mullingar defender at the near post. Lee Wilson replied by firing over but Mullingar never recovered from the earlier setback.
With 15 minutes remaining, an error from the Athletic keeper gifted Willow a second goal. Gaffey tried his luck from long range and although O’Connor looked to have the shot covered disaster followed. The ball slipped from the keepers grasp to trickle over the line.
Willow were now on course for another victory having got over their early frustrations. The win was sealed three minutes later as Willow struck for goal number three in a game of few chances. Claudio Silva had come on to replace Benny Magennis and delivered a good cross from the left. The ball flew across the goalmouth but Glen Byrne was coming in at the far post and buried the ball in the net with a well struck effort.
There was no response from Mullingar as the home defence denied them any space in the closing stages. Last chance fell to the hosts in stoppage time. Substitute Kieran McNally fired goalwards but was denied by the keeper.
The final score might have suggested an easy encounter for Willow but Mullingar were out of luck at a crucial juncture. Had the visitors taken the lead following the resumption of play, the outcome could have been a lot different.