vital brace
Willie John Kiely: vital brace

Athlone Town 1;

Waterford Utd 2

Having lost to a late goal against Shelbourne the previous week, Waterford United were very keen to get back into the groove when they played an Athlone Town side who had won two and drawn one of their opening three games at the Athlone Town Stadium in Lissywollen on Sunday evening last.

Waterford United had a total of four points going into the game following a home draw with Sporting Fingal and an away win in Wexford. Manager Stephen Henderson made one change from the Shels game. Gary Dunphy dropped to the bench with David Grincell coming in on the right side of midfield. Kenny Browne moved back to the centre of the defence which allowed Graham Cummins play in a more forward role in what was a 4-5-1 formation. Willie John Kiely operated as the lone striker.

Waterford were by far the most impressive team, especially in the first half, but when they fell behind after 68 minutes against the run of play it looked as if three more points would be lost but Willie John Kiely came up trumps with two goals in the last 15 minutes to give Blues all the points, and in doing so they have now drawn level with Athlone on the league table.

They remain five points behind the joint leaders Shelbourne and UCD who both have a total of 12 points.

Blues dominant

Waterford United completely dominated the opening 45 minutes and the fact that the teams went in level at half-time was surprising to say the very least because the home side displayed nothing as an attacking force.

Waterford’s first chance arrived on seven minutes. Willie John Kiely ran with pace down the right flank before picking out Graham Cummins but he was slightly off balance and he shot wide.

Five minutes later, David Grincell ran on to a pass from Kevin Waters but the young Blues player was caught in two minds and he shot weakly at Athlone ‘keeper Aaron Shanahan from a good position.

Shortly afterwards Kevin Waters took a corner kick from the right. It was met by Graham Cummins but he headed wide under pressure from goalkeeper Shanahan. More intense pressure from United followed and John Kearney was unlucky to see a well struck shot from 25 yards out go over the crossbar following a pass from Paul McCarthy.

Graham Cummins ran on to a ball over the top from Kevin Waters on 39 minutes. Cummins raced past defender Robert Hamm but he hit the side netting with his effort when he had only the ‘keeper to beat.

Athlone Town defender Thomas McGauley came to the rescue of his side on 44 minutes by kicking the ball off the goaline when Kevin Waters had met a free kick taken by Alan Carey. In the closing seconds of the first half, Seamus Long was just over with a fine right footed shot after he had made contact with a corner kick taken by Willie John Kiely. All one-way traffic towards the Athlone goal then, but no goals to show from a Waterford point of view.

Last gasp winner

Athlone looked a more confident team when the second period got underway and they almost scored on 63 minutes when Emeko Onwubiko broke quickly, feeding Kevin Williamson down the right. His low cross was beackheeled just wide of the near post by Stephen Rice.

The home side did take the lead on 68 minutes. Kevin Williamson took a corner kick played the ball from the right where Kevin Dunne was waiting to head the ball into the path of Noel Magee and he shot to the net was a crowd of players.

Gary Dunphy replaced Grincell after 72 minutes and two minutes later Dunphy crossed from the right to the near post. Graham Cummins was unable to control the ball properly but when the ball ran loose Willie John Kiely was in the right place to equalise from close range.

Athlone were reduced to ten players on 81 minutes when goalscorer Noel Magee was sent off for a foul on Gary Dunphy, having been booked already in the first half.

What proved to be the winning goal came one minute from full-time. Gary Dunphy displayed excellent vision by playing the ball to John Kearney who shot from 20 yards. The ball appeared to hit Kevin Dunne’s arm and the Waterford players appealed for a penalty but Willie John Kiely played on and he smashed the ball past Aaron Shanahan from eight yards.

Having lost to Shelbourne late on the previous week and having conceded late against Sporting Fingal it was great to celebrate a late, late victory on this occasion.

The Blues host mid-table Longford Town at the RSC this Saturday at 7pm. (See Friday’s late edition for team news.)

Athlone Town: Aaron Shanahan, Robbie Hamm, Brian Cleary, Kevin Dunne, Thomas McGauley, Damien Rushe (Cieran O’Reilly, 87) Emeko Onwubiko (Robbie Benson `90) Anthony Hayes, Stephen Rice, Noel Magee, Kevin Williamson.

Waterford United: Michael Devine, Alan Carey, Kenny Browne, Kevin Murray, Seamus Long, David Grincell (Gary Dunphy, 72) Paul McCarthy, John Kearney, Kevin Waters, Graham Cummins, Willie John Kiely.

Referee: Seamus Grant (Wexford).