Late Keenan strike proves crucial as Athlone senior women’s team maintain promising league momentum

A late strike from Gillian Keenan proved crucial as the Athlone Town senior women’s team defeated Sligo Rovers Women to maintain league momentum on Saturday last. Photo by Harry Murphy/Sportsfile

A late strike from Gillian Keenan proved crucial as the Athlone Town senior women’s team defeated Sligo Rovers Women to maintain league momentum on Saturday last. Photo by Harry Murphy/Sportsfile

Sligo Rovers Women 1

Athlone Town AFC 2

High flying Athlone Town AFC’s senior women’s side continued their winning ways after a late strike by Gillian Keenan gave them all three points against Sligo Rovers on Saturday.

The victory at the Showgrounds, combined with results elsewhere in the Womens National League, leave Athlone sitting second in the table.

Despite going behind early on, Athlone dominated the game, and may feel that they should have won by more than a single goal. Forward Maddison Gibson, who was outstanding for Athlone, levelled affairs midway through the first half.

Despite creating a string of chances, and playing virtually the entirety of the second 45 minutes in Sligo territory, Athlone were frustrated in their attempts to find a second goal. Just when it seemed that Sligo Rover’s second half defensive heroics might earn them a point Keenan rifled home a super cross from Gibson in the 86th minute, no more than the Athlone side deserved.

Indeed, in the remaining few minutes of play after the goal the visitors continued to attack AND could consider themselves a tad unlucky not to have bagged a third goal for coach Tommy Hewitt’s high-flying outfit.

Athlone put Silgo under immense pressure from the kick-off and the marauding Roisin Molloy was most unlucky not to give the Midlanders’ a first minute lead when her shot came off the Sligo crossbar. While Sligo did enjoy a few promising breaks, particularly in the opening half, Athlone’s midfield was always in control in that department.

Scarlett Herron once again put in a serious shift in the middle of the park, while Muireann Devaney showed some good touches when on the ball. At the back Athlone were always comfortable with Jessica Hennessy and Laurie Ryan keeping the home side’s front players well under wraps. Alongside Gibson, both Roisin Molloy and Keenan were prominent going forward.

Despite being on the back foot in the early stages, it was the home team that took the lead in the eight minute, when Athlone failed to deal with a Sligo break through the middle. While Athlone seemed to have got enough bodies back to repel the danger, the ball fell kindly for Sligo’s Gemma McGuinness whose superb strike to the far post beat the diving Niamh Coombes in the visitor’s goal.

Despite that setback Athlone ATAFC picked up where they left off and continued to heap pressure on the Sligo defence. After a couple of near misses Athlone deservedly equalised in the 20th minute when a sublime strike by Gibson from outside the box dipped into the roof of the Sligo net.

While they continued to create opportunities Athlone’s attacking intensity dropped somewhat after the equaliser. Sligo continued to threaten on the break and could consider themselves a tad unlucky not to gone into the break ahead when a dangerous shot Doherty went just outside the Athlone post.

Athlone upped their intensity as the second half progressed and enjoyed lengthy spells of possession. Their efforts were hampered by a determined Sligo who defended en-masse and put numbers behind the ball. Despite creating a few decent scoring opportunities early on the ‘Bit of Red’ rarely troubled their opponent’s goal during the second half. Athlone remained creative and carved out several decent half chances from wide positions, corners and several free kicks in promising positions.

As the game drifted towards the final whistle, Athlone supporters feared that a clean shot or a telling final ball that would yield a go-ahead goal was not going to happen. To their credit Athlone’s players never panicked and kept their focus firmly on the task at hand.

This team has become accustomed to winning tight affairs, and their patience was rewarded very late in the day when impressive substitute Kellie Brennan won the ball following a Sligo kick out. She fed Gibson, who drove into the Sligo danger zone, and hit the perfect cross to the unmarked Keenan. The midfielder’s perfect clinical strike to the bottom corner of the Sligo net sealed the win for Athlone.

Up next for Athlone AFC’s ladies is a top of the table clash away to league leaders Shelbourne.


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