Dave Donnelly reports from Tolka Park
Shelbourne moved within two points of league leaders Longford Town courtesy of a hard-fought 2-1 win over Athlone Town at Tolka Park on Friday night.
The pre-season title favourites laboured in the first half and could have few qualms about going in at the break a goal down thanks to Dean Williams’ penalty.
A much-improved Shels side dominated the second half and deservedly turned it around with goals from Ryan Brennan and Ciaran Kilduff.
Lorcan Fitzgerald missed a penalty for the second week running late on as Shels were forced to live on the edge of their nerves to hold out for three points they merited on the balance of play.
Manager Ian Morris, who was sent to the stands late on, cut a relieved figure at full time as his side stuttered against a side who have lost seven from eight since they met in round one.
The home side began the brighter and James English forced a good stop from Myles inside five minutes, the former Tolka Rovers keeper saving well with his feet.
Myles was on top form again four minutes later, again denying English as he tipped the winger’s powerful goalbound shot over the bar.
The visitors gradually worked their way into the game and a good run by Dean Casey opened space for Shane Dunne to cross for Williams, whose shot was deflected wide by Luke Byrne.
From the resulting corner, defender Ciaran Grogan latched onto the loose ball and shot goalwards only for Byrne, who didn’t seem to knock much about it, blocked on the line with his face.
The defender went from hero to villain shortly afterwards as he allowed the on-loan Shamrock Rovers striker Williams to turn him before bundling the defender over.
Referee Paula Brady had no hesitation in pointing to the spot, and Williams dusted himself down before calmly sending Colin McCabe the wrong way from 12 yards.
The visitors grew visibly in confidence while Shels retreated into their proverbials, and the home defence backed off Kaleem Simon, whose curling shot just missed the top corner.
Simon went close again as his well-struck free-kick was sliced towards his own goal by Byrne, but McCabe was on hand to turn the ball around the post.
Shels did, belatedly, come back into it towards the end of the half, Kilduff volleying just wide before Ryan Brennan turned Fitzgerald’s free kick onto the crossbar.
The best chance of the lot fell to Kilduff on the stroke of half time as he was picked out in the six-yard box by Alex O’Hanlon but, with the goal at his mercy, he stabbed the ball wide.
Shelbourne emerged a tighter outfit from the break and dominated from the off, with Ryan Brennan setting O’Hanlon up for an early shot he sliced wide.
O’Hanlon returned the favour 11 minutes into the half, playing in Brennan in the box and the midfielder turned Grogan before squeezing a shot in between Myles’ legs.
Brennan could have doubled his tally nine minutes later as he was found in the box by sub Shane Farrell, but he volleyed inches past the post.
Farrell was the architect for the winning goal 12 minutes from time when he found Brennan with an angled pass into the box, and the former Pats man set up Kilduff for a fine first-time volley.
Lorcan Fitzgerald should have settled it from the spot moments later as Darren Meenan pulled down Brennan in the box.
The left-back saw his spot-kick saved for the second game in succession, however, as his weak effort was diverted clear by the outstretched leg of Myles.
That miss very nearly cost Shels two points in injury time as Dean George’s cross found Dean Williams unmarked in the box, but his first-time clipped the post and ran agonisingly wide.
Shelbourne: Colin McCabe; Aidan Friel, Dan Byrne (Derek Prendergast 4), Luke Byrne, Lorcan Fitzgerald; Oscar Brennan, Daniel McKenna (Shane Farrell 54), Ryan Brennan; James English, Alex O’Hanlon (Karl Moore 74), Ciarán Kilduff.
Subs not used: Dean Delany (gk), Darragh Noone, Shane Farrell, Karl Moore, Dayle Rooney, Conan Byrne.
Athlone Town: Aaron Myles; Evan White, Gavin Kearney, Ciaran Grogan, John Morgan (Dean George 70); Shane Dunne (Kealan Dillon 51), Aaron Brilly, Kaleem Simon; Eoghan Morgan (Darren Meenan 59), Dean Casey, Dean Williams.
Subs not used: Garmondeh Ta-Uway (gk), Lloyd Buckley, Evan Pierce, Kyle Hogan, Dean George, Darren Meenan.
Booked: John Morgan (18), Kaleem Simon (45+2), Darren Meenan (80), Kealan Dillon (88).
Referee: Paula Brady.
Attendance: 817 (official).
Extratime.ie Player of the Match: Ryan Brennan (Shelbourne).