Athlone Town 1 – 4 Waterford United
Report by Matt Keane. Photos: Ian Clancy.
A superb individual effort deep into stoppage time from Sean Maguire put the seal on an excellent win for the Blues at Lissywoollen tonight. It was the young striker’s second of the night, as he had earlier doubled United’s lead, following Peter White’s first half header. Noel McGee got the home side back in it minutes later, but Peter Keegan re-established the two goal lead on the stroke of full time, before Maguire’s stunning second.
Athlone must be sick and tired of the sight of United, as March 2002 was the last time the Midlanders managed to beat the Blues. In fairness they did make a brave effort to win this latest meeting of the clubs, but the two late goals gave the visitors a somewhat flattering full time final score advantage. The victory has moved Waterford four points clear of Mike Kerley’s men and at this stage it would appear that the leaders Longford Town, second placed Limerick and Waterford are pulling away from the remainder of the teams in the division. The Blues were leading 2-1 with time running out as the hosts were pressing forward for an equaliser, but the clinical finishing of Peter Keegan and the magical Seanie Maguire wrapped up the vital points for Paul O’Brien’s charges. Next up is a visit to Ferrycarrig Park to play Wexford Youths and a win there would set up a spine tingling home game against Limerick on Friday, July 6th. Top man for the Blues in Athlone was the exciting Seanie Maguire. His second goal was worth the trip to Lissywollen alone, and he has now bagged seven goals in his fledgling career and he will be a vital player as the local side chase what hopefully will end up with automatic promotion.
Athlone Town keeper Pat Jennings denied the visitors the lead goal after seven minutes when Gary Keane slipped Maguire into the clear and after he put the ball on a plate for winger Paul Phelan, his shot on his unfavoured right-footed was saved by the legs of the netminder before Ben Ryan fired the rebound over the bar. A neat move from the home side on 15 minutes between Kevin Williamson and Mark Sherlock saw Blues defender Dylan Mernagh forced to put the ball out for a corner kick. Val Feeney sent in the resulting flag kick from the right that found Ian Sweeney at the back stick but his right-footed shot was straight into the ground leading to a comfortable save from United keeper Packie Holden. Williamson and Sherlock linked up superbly for a great Athlone chance on 23 minutes when the latter raced clear before firing over the bar of a stranded Holden, while Maguire did well at the other end sixty seconds later but his effort from the left-side of the penalty area was deflected for a fruitless corner kick.
An error in defence from Waterford captain David Breen on the half hour mark nearly yielded a breakthrough for Athlone when a long ball from Ian Sweeney saw Breen slip allowing Sherlock race one on one but Holden made a smart save to deny the attacker. There was a great slice of luck for the opening goal that fell the way of Waterford less than three minutes later when Phelan’s superb delivery from the right was headed goalwards by Peter White and the ball took a deflection off an Athlone Town player and found the corner, giving Jennings no chance whatsoever.
Athlone introduced Noel McGee on 52 minutes as they tried to force an equalising goal and the striker was unlucky not to connect with a Niall Scullion left-wing cross after 69 minutes before Val Feeney’s delivery from the left shortly afterwards was headed over the crossbar of Packie Holden by striker Mark Sherlock. Blues left back Dylan Mernagh came to his side’s rescue less than two minutes later when Feeney sent in a corner kick that found the head of Ian Sweeney at the back post but his header was cleared off the line.
Waterford increased their lead with a great goal on 72 minutes, and it was Gary Dempsey that started the move when he laid the ball off to Mernagh, who picked out Paul Phelan down the left and when he crossed into the penalty area, Sean Maguire found the corner of the net with an exquisite finish from ten yards that gave keeper Pat Jennings no chance at all. But the Blues handed the hosts a way back into the game three minutes later when defender Craig Burns hauled down Noel McGee on his way through on goal and McGee himself sent Holden the wrong way from the penalty spot. Phelan was guilty of missing a great chance to regain Waterford’s two goal advantage on 83 minutes when he raced onto a through ball from Peter White but instead of squaring to the unmarked Maguire for a simple tap in, the winger shot himself and was denied by the legs of Jennings.
It has to be said that Athlone did try force the issue in the final minutes to gain an equaliser with Tommy Barrett heading over from close range but they were caught out in the final minute when Phelan once again got clear on goal before this time opting to square for Peter Keegan, who slotted home from close range. Maguire put a flattering complexion on the scoreboard with the final action of the game when he did superbly out on the left to cut inside and drill a low left-footed shot past keeper Jennings to ensure that the Blues remain in third position in the table and move four points clear of Athlone in the race for promotion.
(many thanks again to Matt Keane for the report and Ian Clancy for the photos!)
Athlone: Pat Jennings, Kevin Williamson, Brian McCarthy, Tommy Barrett, Joe Woods, Niall Scullion, Damien Rushe (Noel McGee 51), Jason Hughes, Val Feeney (Ethan Keogh 84), Ian Sweeney (Sean Guerins 78), Mark Sherlock – subs: Ronan Morris, Brian Collopy, David Brookes
Goal: McGee 77
Booked: Scullion, McCarthy, McGee
Blues: Packie Holden; Paul Carey, Craig Burns, David Breen (Long 69), Dylan Mernagh; Ben Ryan (Peter Higgins 88), Peter White, Gary Dempsey, Paul Phelan; Sean Maguire, Gary Keane (Peter Keegan 80) – subs: Robbie Hughes, John Frost, Conor Coad, Aidan McGrath
Goals: White 32, Maguire 72, 93, Keegan 90
Booked: Carey, Burns, Long, Dempsey
Referee: Ray Matthews