Athlone Town 0; Waterford United 0

One usually associates Good Friday with hot-cross buns but last weekend we had to make do with pudding, a pudding of a pitch which looked more like a ploughed field with roller marks all over the playing surface. To make matters worse the wind blew like a hurricane and as a result the fare on offer was shambolic.

The only player who displayed any sort of decent form was Blues midfielder Dave Warren. He did his level best to make things tick for the visiting team but his colleagues found the going and the conditions too much to deal with. Waterford did have the best of the few chances that were created but they could not make their limited opportunities count. The back four looked solid enough when the host club launched an odd attack but it is clear to see that goals will prove to be a problem if players such as Vinny Sullivan, Kevin Waters and Karl Birmingham don’t start firing. Waterford now have two home games on the trot, starting against Sporting Fingal this Friday. It is worth noting that the newcomers to the league have moved a point ahead of Waterford in the league and that fact does not make pleasant reading.

Off the line

Waterford began with the same eleven players that started the match against Longford Town the previous week. Athlone began brightly and they went close in the very first minute when Noel McGee hammered in a shot from the edge of the penalty area but the Waterford skipper David Breen got in a fine blocking clearance. Left winger Jason McCartney was the Town player who had got the ball over to McGee from the left. Four minutes later McCartney was back in the thick of the action when he sent over a free kick with his left foot from the right but central defender Jim Sheridan headed well wide from 16 yards.

Jason McCartney was enjoying a good little spell at this stage and when he floated over a corner kick from the right on 16 minutes, Kenny Browne headed his flag kick clear. The ball fell nicely to Davy Byrne but his snap shot went wide of Pakie Holden’s left upright. The Lissywollen outfit should have taken the lead on 23 minutes when right full back Ian Rossiter sent over a good ball to the edge of the Waterford penalty area but Davy Byrne missed the ball completely with his head when the goal was at his mercy.

Slowly but surely the Blues began to get some sort of grip on the game and they almost took the lead on the half hour mark. They forced a corner kick out on the right. Kevin Waters swung the ball in under the Athlone goalkeeper’s crossbar and when Ciaran Kelly allowed the ball drop from his grasp his colleague Jim Sheridan came to his rescue by kicking off the goal line. It was Waterford who pressed forward during the remaining 15 minutes of the first half but they did not really trouble the home defenders or indeed goalkeeper Ciaran Kelly.

Fitzpatrick header

Waterford tried to “up” their game during the early minutes of the second period and Dave Warren made Kelly work with a free kick from 25 yards on 48 minutes. The goalkeeper had to get down smartly to hold the ball on his line. Jason McCartney who had drifted out of the game somewhat for Athlone sent over a corner kick from the right after 58 minutes but the experienced Philip Reilly headed well wide of Pakie Holden’s goal. Dave Warren and Vinny Sullivan played a nice one-two on 63 minutes but Ciaran Kelly did well to hold Warren’s shot from just outside the penalty area. Waterford best chance arrived on 65 minutes. Michael Foley who at this stage had replaced the out of sorts Kevin Waters sent over a well directed free kick from the right. Luke Fitzpatrick rose high to meet the ball and with Jim Sheridan standing off he should have scored but he directed his header over the crossbar from 8 yards.

Another Michael Foley free from the right was headed on by Dave Warren on 72 minutes but with a number of Blues players coming forward, Jim Sheridan somehow managed to get his head to the ball and clear the danger. Gareth Cronin brought on David Grincell and Gary Dunphy and took off Vinny Sullivan and Luke Fitzpatrick after that move but the new look side never really gave any headaches to the Athlone Town defenders. This was Waterford United’s first visit to Athlone for a league game in over six years. It was one which will not live in the memory for very long.

Athlone Town: Ciaran Kelly, Ian Rossiter, Robbie Hamm, Jim Sheridan, Nigel Keady, Philip Reilly, Levi Tierney, Dave Byrne, Eric Levine, Noel McGee, Jason McCartney.

Subs: David O’Dowd for McGee (68 mins), Padraig Moran for Levine (81 mins).

Waterford United: Pakie Holden, Kieran Fitzgerald, Robbie Clarke, Kenny Browne, David Breen, Dave Warren, Luke Fitzpatrick, Paul McCarthy, Kevin Waters, Vinny Sullivan, Karl Birmingham.

Subs: Michael Foley for Waters (60 mins), David Grincell for Sullivan (74 mins), Gary Dunphy for Fitzpatrick (81 mins).

Referee: Richard Rogers (Dublin).