ATHLONE TOWN 1 GALWAY UNITED 0
New Athlone Town manager Paul Doolin got his tenure off to the best possible start with a victory over high flying Galway United last Friday night, concluding a hectic week for the club which had seen Adrian Carberry step aside as manager following a heavy defeat away to UCD.
United had ended Shelbourne’s unbeaten run in their previous outing but failed to sparkle against struggling Athlone as Kurtis Byrne struck for the winner just after the hour mark.
It looked like Galway were going to keep their good run going in the early stages as four corner kicks in the first seven minutes were forced, but having survived, Athlone grew in confidence as the half progressed.
The two best chances of the half though were to fall Galway’s way. Athlone earned their first corner kick on 28 minutes from which Jamie Hollywood volleyed wide. A further chance fell to James Doona while Gary Comerford was also off target for the home team.
Galway should have opened the scoring on 40 minutes but Shane Doherty headed over from a good position. Just before the break, Galway had their second chance to take the lead but David Hurley’s free kick was pushed behind by Micheal Schlingermann.
Galway boss, John Caulfield, would have been very disappointed at how the second half unfolded. Four changes were made but to no avail, while high balls into the Athlone box were easily dealt with.
The introduction of Tunmise Sobowale early in the second half handed the Town a new weapon in midfield. Athlone dominated the early stages as penalty appeals from Stephen Meaney were turned down.
The off field changes appeared not to upset the home players but it was still a shock when they broke the deadlock after 63 minutes. The ball was played into Byrne on the edge of the penalty area. The experienced striker then created room for a shot with the ball flying into the roof of the net over United keeper Conor Kearns.
Byrne had a chance to double the lead three minutes later but his shot was deflected behind. Caulfield’s men made the most of the reprieve to have a couple of chances of collecting a point, Ruairi Keating headed over while Adam Wixted did well to clear the ball off the line following a corner kick.
Athlone had one more chance to seal victory with eight minutes left, the impressive Sobowale seeing his effort deflected behind. Galway pushed forward for the closing stages but could find no way past the home rear-guard.
The only danger came from corners either side of the 90 minute mark. Four additional minutes were indicated with Athlone running down the clock whenever they had possession.
The last corner of the contest in the final minute saw Kearns push up in a desperate bid to be the United hero but his presence carried little threat, Athlone holding out to record a second win of the season against Galway and put a serious dent in their title hopes.