CCFC 0-1 Athlone

By Denis Hurley for EchoLive.ie

Cork City fell to a second straight SSE Airtricity League First Division defeat as James Doona’s second-half strike for Athlone Town was the only goal at Turner’s Cross on Friday night.

Having lost to Cabinteely last week, City had the better of the play but they couldn’t convert that into goals. Athlone, on the back foot for much of the second period, made the most of a foray forward in the 78th minute when, from a throw on the right by Aidan Friel, Adam Wixted was able to work the ball to Doona on the edge of the area and his low early shot was beyond Mark McNulty.

City had two changes from the Cabinteely game. Defender Jonas Häkkinen came into defence for his debut, with Cian Coleman moving to midfield as Jack Baxter missed out, while Jack Walsh was given a first start at centre-forward, replacing Cian Murphy.

Both players settled well and Walsh in particular was lively in the first half, providing a good focal point in attack and getting involved in general play, too. Midway through the opening period, it was Walsh’s crossfield pass that picked out Cian Bargary – starting on the right with Dylan McGlade on the left, a reversal of recent games – but Micheál Schlingermann saved from the Tipperary native.

Captain Gearóid Morrissey had a shot wide just after that, while shortly before the half-hour McGlade linked with Alec Byrne, who impressed in the first half, and he worked the ball to Walsh, whose low effort from the edge of the area whistled past the post.

However, City didn’t have things all their own way in the first half. Athlone, coming into the game off the back of an impressive win over Galway United, proved adept at quick breaks, aided by a front four that combined well.

Their right winger Wixted had the game’s first chance, drawing a fourth-minute save from Mark McNulty, while defender Dylan Hand headed over from a Jamie Hollywood free kick. Just before the break, Stephen Meaney and Doona did well to create a chance for Kurtis Byrne, but he couldn’t find the target.

On the resumption, City began to assert more dominance on the ball, though without managing overwork Schlingermann. Four minutes after the restart, the goalkeeper did have to do well to repel a Bargary effort following a swift break from City but chances were rare in the remainder of the game’s third quarter.

At the other end, Athlone’s Doona did have a shot that might have tested McNulty but the ball hit Byrne and deflected wide. Otherwise, the strength of Häkkinen and central defensive partner George Heaven was illustrated by the fact that Meaney was withdrawn for Athlone’s first substitution.

Midway through the half, City went close as a lovely mazy run Walsh almost opened up a chance for himself. He laid off to Morrissey, whose shot was blocked and then Walsh’s follow-up was held by Schlingermann.

A nice ball from McGlade looked to find Morrissey’s run on 73 and it seemed as if City’s pressure might eventually tell, but instead they found themselves victims of a sucker-punch from Athlone.

Walsh headed wide from a corner as City pushed for a late equaliser, and though Wixted wasted an opportunity to make it 2-0, Athlone held out to take the points back to the midlands.

Referee: M Moynihan (Kildare).

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