League Report: Athlone Town 1 - 0 Finn Harps

Dean Ebbe

Dean Ebbe Credit: Thomas Flinkow (ETPhotos)

Athlone Town earned their third win of the season as Dean Ebbe’s close-range goal was enough to defeat high-flying Finn Harps in the Midlands.

At the Athlone Town Stadium, Harps suffered only their second league defeat this year after their creative players were outdone by Athlone’s attackers, and a sturdy home defense held firm.

Without the suspended attacker Dylan Hand, following his sending off at the Carlisle Grounds last week, the Athlone onus was on Ebbe and Connolly to keep the goals flowing. Finn Harps, meanwhile, made five changes from their draw against ten-man UCD, with Bohemians loanee Chris Lotefa handed his first league start.

After a cagey opening quarter of the game, the Athlone Town Stadium erupted as the hosts opened the scoring twenty-five minutes in.

Harps captain Tony McNamee, found himself with little support from teammates, pickpocketed on the halfway line. Italian Brian Torre surged forward onto Daniel McKenna’s calm pass, finding the run of Portuguese winger Ruben Candal out left.

Candal cantered away from Conor Tourish, whipping a sumptuous cross into the box that evaded all three of the visitors’ central defenders. Amardo Oakley, coming in at the back post, alertly kept the ball alive, nudging it back into Ebbe’s path, with the Athlone number nine sweeping home his fourth goal of the season.

Finn Harps, occupying second place coming into this one, were feeding on scraps, with experienced man Ryan Rainey drilling straight at home stopper Enda Minogue in their first shot on target.

They had Rainey to thank for crucially blocking Aaron Connolly’s shot. McKenna then flashed a dipping effort narrowly wide to round off the first-half action.

No doubt rejuvenated by coach Darren Murphy’s team talk, the Ballybofey men almost equalized immediately in the second half, with Noe Baba’s brilliant header brilliantly repelled by Minogue.

Whilst Murphy’s men had beaten the Midlanders at Finn Park earlier in the campaign, his side were struggling to create clear-cut chances from open play. The experienced legs in midfield were unable to deter Athlone’s pacy attacks, led by pest-in-chief, home captain Oisin Duffy.

Two-thirds through the encounter, Athlone introduced Jamar Campion-Hinds and Harps brought on Sean O’Donnell, both of whose fresh speed would have been unwelcome news to each backline.

Despite injecting Patrick Ferry into proceedings, Athlone stymied Harps’ threat in a needly second half. Swede Carl Mujaguzi could have sealed the points when he burst beyond Baba late on only to sky his shot well clear of Tim Heimer’s crossbar.

In five additional minutes, the Donegal side were unable to find a way through, with McKenna thumping timely clearances upfield.

O’Donnell, in a good cameo, almost played Success Edogun, starved of service up front, in in the dying embers but Minogue read the pass, the Athlone netminder grasping the ball to the relief of the home faithful.

Both these teams are on their travels in a week’s time, with Harps facing Cobh Ramblers at St Colman’s Park and Athlone making a trip to Mounthawk Park.

Athlone Town: Enda Minogue; Fuentes Rodriguez German, Jarlath Jones, Daniel McKenna, Ruben Candal (Gideon Tetteh 75), Aaron Connolly, Dean Ebbe (Shane Forbes 90+2), Carl Mujaguzi (Divine Izekor 90+2), Amardo Oakley, Oisin Duffy ©, Brian Torre (Jamar Campion-Hinds 61).

Subs not used: Stuart Trainor (gk), Renei Batloka, Matthew Leal, Roscoe Rubinstein, Brendan Lauder.

Booked: Jarlath Jones (37), Brian Torre (53), Oisin Duffy (68), Fuentes Rodriguez German (90+4). 

Finn Harps: Tim Heimer; Conor Tourish, Jamie Watson (Darragh Coyle 88), Matty Makinson, Noe Baba, Chris Lotefa (Mark Mbuli 75), Shane McMonagle (Sean O’Donnell 60), Tony McNamee © (Aaron McLaughlin 88), David Cawley, Ryan Rainey (Patrick Ferry 75), Success Edogun.

Subs not used: Oisin Cooney (gk), Conor Walsh (gk), Luke O’Brien, Max Johnston.

Booked: Sean O’Donnell (90+4).

Referee: Jason Moore.

Attendance: 596.

extratime.com Player of the Match:  Daniel McKenna (Athlone Town).