Athlone Town 1; Waterford United 1
Athlone Town and Waterford United played out their third draw of the current season on Tuesday night last.
When Vinny Sullivan gave Waterford the lead just beyond the hour mark, it looked as if the Blues would record their first victory of the season over the Westmeath outfit.
However, central defender Kenny Browne blotted his copy book with eight minutes remaining when he lunged in on new Athlone striker Johnny Mernagh for no apparent reason to concede a penalty.
From the resulting spot kick, Ian Rossiter duly sent Waterford goalkeeper Ben Spicer the wrong way to bring the sides level.
It was hard to take but in fairness it was no more than the home side deserved because they played some excellent football throughout the 90 minutes and they deserved something from the game.
On Monday night leaders Dundalk defeated Longford Town, while Sporting Fingal got the better of Limerick.
Those results, allied to Waterford’s, now means that Dundlak lead the way in Division One with a total of 44 points.
Fingal have gone second with 41 points, with the Blues dropping to third on 40 points.
Sporting Fingal are the visitors to the RSC this evening (Friday) so despite dropping two points on Tuesday, the local side will have the opportunity to regain second place this weekend.
The other side in the hunt for promotion, Shelbourne, crashed away to Monaghan and they remain on 39 points.
The opening 45 minutes of Tuesday’s game was full of good attacking play.
Luke Fitzpatrick brought a magnificent save from the Athlone goalkeeper Ciaran Kelly on nine minutes with a cracking strike from 25 yards.
Athlone came on strong after that shot and save; Ben Spicer saving well from Jason McCartney following a pass from Noel McGee.
A minute later, Johnny Mernagh shot over the bar from a good position. Ben Spicer, between the posts after regular goalkeeper Pakie Holden had failed a fitness test before the game, was at his best once again on 18 minutes, saving well from Mernagh.
Karl Bermingham had a chance for Waterford on 31 minutes when he latched onto a Dave Warren ball, but from inside the penalty area, he hooked the ball wide with Ciaran Kelly out of position.
Jason McCartney should have put the home side in front on 59 minutes when put clear by Carmine Russo but with the goal at his mercy he shot straight at Spicer.
But the Blues took the lead in fine fashion 16 minutes into the second period. Robbie Clarke went down the left flank before passing to Michael Foley who squared the ball to Vinny Sullivan.
The Dungarvan-born striker had his back to goal, but on the edge of the box he turned quickly and drilled the ball low past Kelly for his eighth league goal of the current campaign.
Athlone almost got back on level terms on 73 minutes when defender Philly Reilly rose high to meet a right wing corner kick from Jason McCartney. But with Spicer beaten, Kevin Waters was in the right place to head the ball off the line.
Athlone thought they should have had a penalty on 80 minutes when Kenny Browne almost ripped the shirt off Eric Lavine but the referee waved away their appeals.
Sixty seconds later, Browne gave the official no option but to give the home side a penalty which Rossiter duly converted.
Blues boss Gareth Cronin and the Waterford players left Lissywollen with glum and long faces.
They have now dropped six points to Athlone Town this season and those points could be the difference between promotion or another season in the second grade.
Athlone Town: Ciaran Kelly, Ian Rossiter, Philly Reilly, Nigel Keady, Des Hope, Colm Jinks, Joey Maloney, Carmine Russo, Johnny Mernagh, Noel McGee, Jason McCartney.
Sub: Eric Lavine for McGee (57 mins).
Waterford United: Ben Spicer, Stephen Quigley, Robbie Clarke, David Breen, Kenny Browne, Dave Warren, Kevin Waters, Luke Fitzpatrick, Vinny Sullivan, Karl Bermingham, Michael Foley.
Subs: David Grincell for Bermingham (65 mins) Willie John Kiely for Fitzpatrick (84 mins)
Referee: Declan Hanney (Dublin).