Report by Graham Cummins by EchoLive.ie
First Division champions Cork City let a two-goal lead slip as they lost in the penultimate round of league fixtures at the Athlone Town stadium on Friday night.
The Rebel Army had stormed into an early two-goal lead inside 15 minutes after Dylan McGlade and Barry Coffey had scored for the champions, but goals from Gary Armstrong, Noah Van Geenan and a powerful free-kick from Aaron Connolly late in the game earned the visitors all three points.
Despite making six changes to the team that claimed the First Division title against Wexford, there was still a strong feel to the City line-up, with players such as Ally Gilchrist, Cian Coleman and Aaron Bolger included in the starting 11.
McGlade opened the scoring after just five minutes with a trademark goal. The winger collected the ball wide on the left-hand wing before cutting inside and curling the ball into the far top corner of Enda Minogue’s net.
Franco Umeh, who started on the right of City’s front three, was one of the players to stand out in the early stages of the contest. The 17-year-old was very positive when in possession. He was direct and always drew opposition players to him, without overplaying.
City doubled their lead 10 minutes later, this time McGlade turned provider. The City player drove with the ball to the end line before standing up his cross which Coffey bravely got on the end of. The ball seemed to come off the face of the 21-year-old after Minogue had misjudged the flight of the ball. It was poor goalkeeping from Minogue but Coffey showed great bravery and determination to get his 13th league goal of the season.
Athlone ensured the game remained competitive when Armstrong shrugged off the challenge of Aaron Bolger before unleashing a low, driven shot beyond Jimmy Corcoran. Although it was a good strike from Armstrong, the Athlone player was given far too much time on the edge of the area to get his shot off.
After a sluggish start, the goal gave the home side the lift they needed. They increase the tempo in their play. They were getting more players forward in attack and were aggressive without the ball.
City muted Athlone’s threat towards the latter stages of the half. The hosts resorted to going more direct in their play, but never troubled the City defence. Whereas the Rebel Army opted to keep the ball on the floor with some neat passing.
There were few moments to get supporters off their seats at the beginning of the second half, although Matt Srbely was doing his best to entertain those in the stands with some impressive footwork.
Athlone carried little threat going forward. Last week’s goalscoring hero Thomas Oluwa, whose goal helped seal the title for City, was being kept quiet by City. However, the striker almost had his side level when he latched on to a long ball, but luckily for the visitors, Gordon Walker was on hand to prevent the effort from crossing the line.
The home side were level when Patrick Hickey found himself unmarked at the back, and he headed back across goal to leave van Geenan with the simplest of finishes from close range.
The winner was scored in the 87th minute when Connolly drove a free-kick into the roof of Corey Chambers' net.
Referee: Kevin O'Sullivan.[event_performance 116388]