Athlone Town 2 - 1 Mervue UnitedSat, May 12 2012
Two first half goals were enough to secure a third win in four games for Athlone Town as they held off a late rally from a Mervue United side whose have not won away from home since last September.
The home side were quick out of the blocks and Mervue’s young keeper Conor O’Malley had to make two smart saves from Mark Sherlock as Garvan Broughall set him up twice in the opening five minutes for a busy start to the 17 year old's League of Ireland career.
The visitors responded with a good move involving Etanda Nkololo and Pat Hoban with the lone striker eventually setting up Barry McEntee on the edge of the box but his effort was too high as it sailed over Pat Jennings crossbar.
Athlone were in front on 14 minutes when defender Tommy Barrett headed a Kevin Williamson corner past debutant O’Malley from close range for the opening score. Sherlock should have doubled that lead a minute later but shot over after a run through the Mervue defence gave him another clear sight of O’Malley’s goal.
They did add that second goal on 25 minutes when Garvan Broughall delivered a free-kick into the box for Brian McCarthy to knock the ball into the path of Stephen Relihan who stabbed the ball past O'Malley from inside the six yard box.
Mervue then forced four corners in a row as they looked to retrieve something from the game and had a big shout for a goal turned down from the first of those. A scramble in the goalmouth saw the ball diverted goalwards by Mike Elwood but Barrett cleared in the goals with the Mervue players claiming the ball had crossed the line.
Three more Shane Keogh deliveries all found teammates in the box as Pat Hoban headed into the side netting and then volleyed over Jennings crossbar, while Elwood headed wide in between those two efforts.
Another Keogh delivery from the right was headed over by Hoban just past the half hour mark. The home side should have added to their lead a minute before the break but once again O’Malley did brilliantly blocking a Brian Gill effort with his legs after the midfielder had raced onto a Sherlock ball.
Mervue were very unlucky not to have gone in only a goal down two minutes into added time at the end of the opening period. Keogh curled a cracking effort over the Athlone wall and with Jennings beaten the ball struck the angle of the woodwork and McEntee fired the rebound wide of the target.
Both sides made a defensive change for the start of the second half as Mark Walsh replaced Damien Rush for Athlone, while James Casserly replaced Damien O’Rourke for Mervue. The change almost got the visitors back into the game but Casserly had his shot well blocked by Jennings four minutes after the break following a corner.
Athlone’s Gill then headed a Ross Kenny cross straight into the arms of O’Malley, while Keogh beat two defenders before flashing a ball across the face of the Athlone goal but Hoban couldn’t direct it into the net.
Brian McCarthy had an effort cleared of the line by Keogh on 74 minutes and from the resultant corner the big centre half shot wide from close range as the game swung from end to end.
Jason Molloy fired straight at Jennings when through on goals on 77 minutes and then Mervue fullback Michael McSweeney headed wide when unmarked from another excellent Keogh delivery a minute later. Sub Tom King beat two defenders in the final minute but flashed his shot across the home goal as Mervue continued to press for a reward.
The visitors finally pulled a goal back a minute into injury time when sub Casserly headed home a Keogh corner for 2-1. Hoban almost snatched an unlikely draw when he turned on the edge of the box and fired an effort on target in the fourth minute of stoppage time but Jennings saved well as the home side record a sixth successive win over the Galway side.
Athlone Town: Pat Jennings; Damien Rushe (Mark Walsh 46), Tommy Barrett, Brian McCarthy, Ross Kenny; Garvan Broughall (Sean Guerins 67), Jason Hughes, Stephen Relihan, Brian Gill, Kevin Williamson; Mark Sherlock.
Subs Not Used: Brian Collopy (GK), Noel McGee, Darren Coleman, Val Feeney, Ian Sweeney.
Booked: Relihan (53).
Mervue Utd : Conor O’Malley; Michael McSweeney, Mike Elwood, Damien O’Rourke (James Casserly ’46), Marc Ludden; Jason Molloy, Barry McEntee, Shane Keogh, Alex Lee (Noel Varley 52), Etanda Nkololo (Tom King 69); Pat Hoban.
Subs not used: Conor Gleeson (GK), Stephen Walsh, Mike Collins.
Booked: McEntee (8),
Referee: Andrew Mullally (Waterford).
Extratime.ie Man of the Match: Garvan Broughall (Athlone Town).