Athlone sustain play-off aspirations as Brett starts head coach reign with merited victory



John Dingle

As the first series of SSE Airtricity League First Division fixtures draw to a close, Athlone Town remain poised to secure a play-off position after beating fellow promotion hopefuls Cobh Ramblers last Friday night.

The Munster outfit were four points clear of the Town heading into the game but the home team narrowed the gap to just a single point with this merited victory in Lissywollen. A scoreless opening half favoured Cobh but two second half goals from Valerii Dolia and Adam Lennon saw Athlone secure their first win in three games.

A traumatic fortnight off the field had seen Athlone without a first team coach following Dermot Lennon moving back to his director of football role. Gordon Brett has now returned as head coach and his first game in charge was a winning one. The Town native made two changes to his starting eleven following the defeat to Bray Wanderers a week earlier, both Jack Kavanagh and Isaie Louis retaining their places after coming on as substitutes in the Carlisle Grounds as Oisin Duffy and Matthew Leal dropped to the bench.

Knowing that by avoiding defeat Cobh would retain their four point advantage meant the opening half was a cautious affair. The visitors did have the better chances but found the Town defence and especially centre half Noah VanGeenen in solid form. Dolia was to open the scoring early in the second half but his first noteworthy mention was to pick up a caution just before the break. Neither side was able to break the deadlock as the half finished scoreless.

Athlone were more positive when play resumed and took the lead after 51 minutes - a goal worth waiting for. Cobh conceded a free kick just outside their penalty area and, with renowned deadball strikers such as Aaron Connolly in their ranks, Athlone sensed their opportunity. As it turned out, the Town captain left it to Dolia to take and he smashed the ball to the net past the keeper’s right. It was a fantastic strike and meant Cobh now had to try and take the game to the hosts and look to avoid defeat.

Lennon also entered the referee’s notebook midway through the second half but, as with Dolia, it was merely an indication of what was to come. The Town goalscorer was replaced as the half progressed as Ramblers also made changes in an attempt at rectifying the situation. They were still in contention as the game went into its closing stages but lead to their own downfall with some poor defending.

A clearance from goalkeeper Lee Steacy into the Athlone half was soon to turn all wrong as attack quickly turned to disaster. A poor pass was latched onto by Frantz Pierrot who raided down the left. His cross picked out Lennon who came in to score his first goal of the season. Having lost the plot on the pitch, Ramblers also boiled over on the touchline with manager Shane Keegan booked and his assistant Fran Rockett dismissed after receiving a second yellow card.


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