ATHLONE TOWN 1
By John Dingle
There was late drama in Tolka Park last Friday night as Athlone Town came within the width of a post of sharing the spoils with Shelbourne.
Dean Williams was denied an equaliser by a matter of inches deep into stoppage time as the visitors almost salvaged a point. The Town’s top scorer had earlier scored from the penalty spot in the opening half. Shelbourne staged a comeback after the break as Ryan Brennan and Ciaran Kilduff found the net. The home team also missed a penalty kick allowing Athlone the chance to level in stoppage time but the woodwork came to the Reds’ rescue.
The home team earned the first corner kick of the game inside the opening minute. Four more were to follow, with Athlone also claiming two in a lively first 10 minutes of play. Town goalkeeper Aaron Myles got down at his near post to deny James English and followed up to further frustrate the Reds’ striker. Athlone were denied the lead midway through the half when a corner kick fell to Ciaran Grogan. The defenders shot was blocked on the goal line.
Williams then fired wide and with Shelbourne suffering, Athlone took a surprise lead with 26 minutes played. Williams was pushed by Luke Byrne in the penalty area and a spot kick was awarded. The town striker duly sent Conor McCabe the wrong way with a well struck effort. Athlone had chances to increase their lead as the half progressed. Kaleem Simon fired wide and was also denied by a flying save from the Reds’ keeper.
Shels rallied as half time approached. Ryan Brennan’s shot on the turn went narrowly wide. Lorcan Fitzgerald’s free from the right saw Brennan again in action with the shot rattling the bar. Kilduff almost forced another chance home but Athlone held their lead into the half time break.
Shelbourne were rejuvenated on the resumption and had levelled matters by the hour mark. Alex O’Hanlon and Simon had chances at either end. O’Hanlon set up the equaliser after 56 minutes as Ryan Brennan fired home under the keeper’s body.
The Dubliners then hit the front after 77 minutes. The Athlone defence was opened up by both substitute Shane Farrell and Ryan Brennan. Kilduff was on hand to shoot low to the net from 10 yards range. Victory should have been sealed two minutes later. The Reds were awarded a penalty kick when Ryan Brennan was adjudged to have been fouled by Town substitute Darren Meenan. It looked harsh and justice appeared to have been done when Lorcan Fitzgerald’s spot kick hit off Aaron Myles.
Home manager Ian Morris was sent to the stands late on as the tension grew.
There was further drama in stoppage time with four additional minutes indicated. Athlone launched a final attack. It almost paid off as a knockdown picked out Williams inside the six yard box. The Reds keeper could only look on as the shot went wide of the upright as luck evaded Athlone.