Waterford United 1; Athlone Town 1
High flying Waterford United could have gone second in the table had they managed to beat bottom club Athlone Town at the RSC on Tuesday night but they came down to earth with a bang on an evening when less than 300 fans paid through the gates.
Gareth Cronin used the same starting line-up that had achieved such a good result in Longford the previous Saturday but, as it turned out, the Blues had to come from behind to earn the draw that still keeps them in the hunt although the manager will surely view this result as two points dropped.
The visitors rocked the Blues back on their heels after only two minutes when Colm Jinks rose above everybody else in a crowded goalmouth to head home a superbly taken free from the right by Ian Colfer.
Less than a minute later, United’s Vinnie Sullivan cracked the ball off the Athlone crossbar from a Willie John Kiely pass but, even though Sullivan turned the rebound into the net, the goal was disallowed by the referee for a foul by Robbie Clarke on Carmine Russo.
The Blues did draw level on the half-hour when Colfer fouled Luke Fitzpatrick twenty-two yards out, near the right sideline, and Michael Foley’s powerfully struck free-kick evaded defenders and attackers alike as it soared into the far roof of the net.
Four minutes later, McCarthy threaded the ball through to Sullivan and he unleashed a fierce shot from 20 yards that shaved the outside of the Athlone upright with the goalkeeper rooted to the spot.
United had by far the best of the exchanges in the second half but, try as they did, they just couldn’t unhinge the visitors’ defence and conjure up a winning goal. Athlone defender Nigel Keady was in the right place to head a goal-bound Sullivan shot out for a corner on 58 minutes and, just after the hour, Kiely attempted to bend a shot around the Mindlanders’ defence but the ball went narrowly wide.
A super save from Anthony Jinks denied United the lead on 70 minutes. A long ball from David Breen found Karl Bermingham who crossed for the inrushing Foley but his rocket-like volley was stopped by the perfectly placed goalkeeper.
Athlone’s Ian Rossiter received his marching orders from referee Sean Grant when he was shown a second yellow card on 92 minutes.
Unfortunately, there was a poor turned out for the game. A Tuesday night admission fee of €15 may not have suited the pockets of many of the supporters and it also didn’t help that there were several Junior Soccer games in progress at the same time.
Waterford United: Packie Holden, Stephan Quigley, Robbie Clarke, David Breen, Kenny Browne, Dave Warren, Paul McCarthy (David Grincell, 75 minutes), Luke Fitzpatrick (Kevin Waters, 62 mins), Vinnie Sullivan (Karl Bermingham, 67 mins), Willie John Kiely, Michael Foley. Subs not used: John Hayes, Ben Spicer.
Athlone Town: Anthony Jinks, Ian Rossiter, Philip Reilly, Jim Sheridan, Nigel Keady, Colm Jinks, Carmine Russo (Noel McGee, 87 minutes), Davy Byrne, Anthony Hayes, Dave O’Dowd, Ian Colfer (Craig Tone, 32 minutes; Robbie Hamm, 73 mins). Subs not used: Des Hope, Lee Gaffney.
Referee: Sean Grant, Wexford.