By Graham Cummins for EchoLive.ie | Photo: Peadar O'Sullivan
An injury-time wonder goal from Aaron Bolger grabbed three vitals points for Cork City at the Athlone Town Stadium.
The victory means that City remain three points ahead of Galway United in the race for the First Division title.
It was a nightmare start for City who found themselves behind after only 25 seconds. Thomas Oluwa, who had been restored to the side from Athlone’s previous game, rushed through before squaring to Oisin Duffy but his effort was excellently blocked on the line by Kevin O’Connor. However, from the breaking ball, Cork native Stephen Kenny beautifully crossed for Oluwa, who made no mistake with his header.
City responded well and Cian Bargary was inches away from levelling the score.
Despite not having won a game this season; Athlone were very impressive in the opening stages and in particular, Oluwa was standing out. One of City’s strengths this campaign has been their defence but they struggled to contain the Athlone frontman. Oluwa’s pace was concerning the City defenders, whose defensive line was playing into the hands of the former Shamrock Rovers player by allowing him space in behind to run into.
City got more of a foothold in the game as the half aged but created very little, and a lot of credit must go to Athlone. The early goal gave them a lot of belief and they kept an excellent defensive shape. The Midlanders were not content with just sitting back and despite seeing less of the ball, Athlone looked the more dangerous going forward, and were it not for some excellent tracking back and defending from Matt Healy, Athlone would have been further ahead.
Athlone’s confidence grew and they were showing good patterns of play. Their passing was quick and neat, but they weren’t afraid to mix up their play by crossing the ball from deep, which seemed to catch City off guard. Noah van Geenen was next to come close to doubling his side’s advantage but his header was just off target before Calton Ubaeluonu saw his chance stopped by David Harrington in the City goal.
The City players would have been happy to hear the half-time whistle. Athlone were the better side and City were fortunate to go in only a goal down at the break.
City’s chances of getting back into the game were given a boost when Kenny was sent-off four minutes into the second half after the player received his second yellow card of the game for a reckless challenge on Ciaran Coates.
The numerical advantage started to show with Healy coming close to scoring. The Ipswich Town loanee received the ball just inside the penalty area but his effort came crashing back off the crossbar.
The game was level when Cian Murphy produced excellent movement in the Athlone penalty area to get free, and he made no mistake heading in Healy’s free-kick.
Athlone were given an immediate opportunity to go back in front. Owula went down in the box from an Ally Gilchrist challenge, but after being awarded the penalty; Harrington kept out Owula’s strike, and the forward somehow failed to convert the rebound.
Healy, who already has scored two wonderful volley’s this season, almost produced another moment of magic but was kept out by Michael Schlingermann.
Cian Coleman saved his side from going behind when he acrobatically cleared off the line after a mix-up between Harrington and Gilchrist gifted Athlone the opportunity.[event_performance 116308]
Referee: Daniel Murphy.