Athlone Town 1 - 4 Waterford UnitedSat, Jun 23 2012
Waterford United gave Athlone Town a lesson in clinical finishing as they cemented their grip on third position by beating the hosts on Friday night in Lissywoollen.
The Midlanders dominated possession for large parts of this entertaining encounter between the third and fourth placed teams and must wonder how they ended up on the wrong side of a 4-1 scoreline.
The answer can be attributed to the Blues extra quality in front of goal that saw them capitalise on the chances they created on a night when they spent long periods defending against a youthful Athlone side.
The template for the game was set in the opening minutes as Waterford soaked up some early Athlone pressure before breaking with pace and purpose. The three forward players combined superbly as Ben Ryan played in Sean Maguire who in turn laid the ball to Paul Phelan. His shot was well saved by Pat Jennings in the home net but Mick Kerley must have been concerned with the ease in which his defence was opened up.
The game then entered a period of Athlone dominance with Val Feeney a particular danger from set pieces. Mark Sherlock was also prominent as he began to receive the ball in the final third. One shot on 20 minutes had Packie Holden at full stretch and thankful that the ball flew over his crossbar.
Again, though, the Waterford forwards suddenly sprang into action and when Sean Maguire switched play with a sumptuous cross-field ball it seemed that Gary Keane would at least work the goalkeeper as he bore down on goal.
Niall Scullion managed to halt his run but the referee deemed his challenge a foul and wrote the defenders name into the book. A book that would see quite a bit of action as the game progressed.
Mark Sherlock was looking the most likely to break the deadlock as he twice found himself in scoring positions in the Waterford box. The first time he could not get the ball out of his feet and the second he brought a fine save from Holden.
Just after the half hour mark, and completely against the run of play, Waterford took the lead when a Paul Phelan corner was headed into the net by Peter White.
The goal gave the visitors confidence and they began to keep possession in the middle of the park but were nearly undone when Sherlock nipped in to dispossess David Breene and then hit the floor as he attempted to round the big defender.
The home fans, not for the first time, screamed for a penalty but Ray Matthews waved the appeals away.
The second half saw Waterford content to hit on the break and they nearly had their lively forward players in but were called off-side on a number of occasions.
Athlone pressed hard for an equaliser and Ian Sweeney thought he was through on goal but was dispossessed by Dylan Mernagh.
Sweeney then had a goal bound header cleared off the line but Waterford broke quickly up the pitch and Mernagh combined with Paul Phelan who’s cross was finished with great composure by the excellent Sean Maguire.
The goal was harsh on the home side and credit must be given to how they re-doubled their efforts to get back in the game.
Those efforts were rewarded on 76 minutes when Noel McGhee converted a penalty conceded by a rash challenge from Craig Burns.
The final ten minutes saw a raft of players enter the referee’s book and Athlone throw everything forward in search of the goal that their efforts probably deserved.
It was United who were to have the final say, however, scoring two breakaway goals in the final minutes as Peter Keegan finished when unselfishly picked out by Paul Phelan, and then Maguire capped a great display with a fine individual effort.
Athlone will rue their profligacy in front of goal while Waterford can now look to gate crash the automatic promotion party that seemed, for so long, to be a straight battle between the top two.
Athlone Town: Pat Jennings; Joe Woods, Tommy Barrett, Brian McCarthy, Niall Scullion; Val Feeney (Ethan Keogh 84), Damien Rushe (Noel McGee 51), Jason Hughes, Kevin Williamson; Mark Sherlock, Ian Sweeney (Sean Guerins 78).
Subs not used: Brian Collopy, David Brooks, Ronan Morris.
Bookings: Scullion (25), Rushe (43), McCarthy (52), McGee (65).
Waterford United: Packie Holden; Paul Carey, David Breen (Seamus Long 69), Craig Burns, Dylan Mernagh; Paul Phelan, Peter White, Gary Dempsey, Gary Keane (Peter Keegan 80); Sean Maguire, Ben Ryan (Peter Higgins 88).
Subs not used: Robbie Hughes, John Frost, Conor Coad, Aidan McGrath.
Bookings: Carey (56), Burns (77), Long (79), Dempsey (81).
Referee: Ray Matthews.
Extratime.ie Man of the Match: Sean Maguire (Waterford).