League Report: Limerick 1-0 Athlone Town
- Caoimhin Reilly
- Wed, Oct 05 2016
Limerick got back to winning ways in the First Division on Tuesday evening courtesy of a 1-0 win over Athlone Town at the Markets Field.
Paul O’Conor’s 76th minute header was all that separated the sides as the champions picked up their 22nd league win of the campaign.
The manner of the goal will disappoint the Midlanders enormously though, as it arrived during their best spell of the match. Shaun Kelly’s right-wing delivery nestled onto the head of O’Conor, who was steaming into the area.
His weak header though appeared set to be collected by the Dylan Owens, until somehow the ball escaped the young ‘keepers grasp – ending up in the bottom corner of the net.
It was harsh on Athlone and their goalkeeper with the Westmeath men having been arguably the better side in the second-period, while they also saw late chances go a begging as they remain rooted to the foot of the table.
The Super Blues had their 24-game unbeaten league run and their hopes of ending the season without defeat in the league ended in Cobh last weekend. Manager Martin Russell opted to make seven alterations to his starting XI from that 2-0 defeat.
Garbhán Coughlan, Ross Mann and Paudie O’Connor all got starting berths while Russell also gave Tommy Holland his first league start of the campaign in place of Bermudan international Freddy Hall.
For Athlone, Cormac Raftery returned from suspension to take his place in midfield alongside Chris Reid. Roy King was the second Athlone change to the side that drew 1-1 with UCD on their previous league assignment.
The pair replaced Jack Quinn and Aidan Byrne as the basement dwellers went seeking their first away league victory since the last day of the 2015 season.
The game itself was fairly poor. The first-half in particular gave the small crowd watching at the Markets Field nothing of note to enjoy. Limerick were clearly the more accomplished in possession having created a high-number of openings, however, their finishing left a lot to be desired.
Garbhán Coughlan, Lee-J Lynch and Sean McSweeney were all guilty of shooting some horrendous wide efforts despite the Shannonsiders’ good build-up plays which generally featured the lively Aaron Greene.
However, the closest Limerick came to scoring was via Athlone ‘skipper Ian Fletcher. The UL student was extremely fortunate to see his firm clearance from inside his own six-yard box rise just over the cross bar following Coughlan’s enticing ball from the left flank.
Limerick probed although there was an evident lack of intensity to their play on what was their penultimate home fixture of the season.
However, Athlone deserve credit for their battling display throughout and in the end, they could have snatched a draw. Joe Maloney and Fletcher gave a strong defensive display, snuffing out the home side on a number of occasions, while Chris Reid was lively in the offensive third during the final minutes.
Despite possessing little in attack during the opening-half, Colin Fortune’s men should have taken a 25th minute lead when Ryan Gaffey’s wicked free-kick evaded everybody including Cormac Raftery who laboriously shrugged in after the delivery. Had the midfielder been sharper, he would most certainly have scored.
This was their only venture into Tommy Holland’s jurisdiction over the course of the opening-half.
The second-half was much the same as the first. Athlone’s game plan was to stifle their hosts, while Limerick attempted to pass the ball into the net. Former Athlone title-winner Coughlan was looking the likeliest to break the deadlock.
The tempo of Limerick’s play was immediately lifted upon the introduction of John O’Flynn just past the hour mark. The veteran striker had an effort, with his first touch, excellently saved by Dylan Owens. He then saw a follow-up effort deflected behind for the Super Blues’ seventh corner of the night.
Athlone enjoyed their best spell of the game moments before O’Conor’s goal. Their approach play was attractive and with Cormac Raftery and Ryan Gaffey involved, they forced three corners prior to Owens’ calamitous error.
They had further chances to gain a point with Holland being forced into a fabulous stooping save to deny Gaffey two-minutes from time. Limerick held on in the end to extend their margin at the summit of the table to 20-points.
Limerick FC: Tommy Holland; Shaun Kelly, Paudie O’Connor, Tony Whitehead, Colm Murphy (Paul O’Conor 69); Lee-J Lynch, Shane Tracy ©, Sean McSweeney (Chris Mulhall 62); Ross Mann (John O’Flynn 61), Garbhan Coughlan, Aaron Greene.
Subs not used: Freddy Hall (gk), Shane Costelloe, Val Feeney, Killian Brouder.
Athlone Town: Dylan Owens; Danny Molloy, Joe Moloney, Ian Fletcher ©, David Crookes; Claudio Silva, Chris Reid (Ioris Oyeniyi 65), Cormac Raftery, Roy King; Ryan Gaffey (Conor Barry 88), Jason Lyons.
Subs not used: Jamie Quinn (gk), Ciáran O’Connell, Shane O’Keeffe.
Referee: Andrew Mullally
Attendance: 300 (estimate)
Extratime.ie Man of the Match: Aaron Greene (Limerick FC)
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