12 August 2011 No Comments by The Northern Standard

Athlone Town 0

Declan ‘Fabio’ O’Brien’s ninth league goal of the season sufficed for Monaghan United to keep up with the promotion-chasing pace and secure this important win over a much improved Athlone Town team at Gortakeegan on Friday night, writes Peter Hughes.
With Cork City inflicting an emphatic defeat on pacesetters Shelbourne, three points became de rigueur for Roddy Collins’ side in a match that evolved into a test of discipline and patience against a tight Town unit who eventually emerged from their conservative chrysalis to contribute a mounting offensive threat to what was a fascinating evening’s football.
Patience was the keynote for United in the early stages as they tried to pick their way through the five-man Athlone midfield. A splendid crossfield pass from Eric Foley first opened the door in the ninth minute, affording crossing room to Jordan Keegan.
Joe Woods intervened for Athlone at the expense of a corner. United kept the pressure up when Sean Brennan collected his own initially cleared cross and Gary Owened it into the box for Alan Byrne to power in a header, Paul Danaher whisking the effort off the line.
A minute later the Mons were in front, good work by John Reilly liberating Sean Brennan for a penetrative run into the box, from where he teed up Fabio O’Brien for a deft finish which just evaded Michael Schlingermann’s blockading efforts.
A 12th minute Keith Quinn chip had Schlingermann back-pedalling as the home side upped the ante. But a lazy pass by Shane Grimes allowed Town to mount a dangerous counter in the 18th minute, Conor Kavanagh releasing Jason Hughes, who slipped by Alan Byrne and was bearing down on goal when Foley made a perfectly timed tackle to relieve the danger.
With Alan Byrne dominant in central defence and some of United’s passing as crisp as had been seen at the venue this season, it seemed inevitable that they would add to their early breakthrough.
But Town’s packed midfield dug in, and in the 29th minute it was a former Mons player Kevin Williamson who almost conjured an equaliser, sending in an outstanding cross from the left that Hughes just missed making first-time contact with at the far post.
On the half-hour determined running by Hughes earned Athlone a free-kick in a dangerous central position. Williamson struck a weak shot off the wall, but in the follow up full-back Declan Fallon unleashed a drive with the outside of his right foot that would have nestled in the top corner but for a glancing touch from the head of Alan Byrne.
United’s response came via impressive midfielder Keith Quinn, a fulminating drive from distance in the 33rd minute that sent Schlingermann sprawling to make a notable save.
The game took on a lively end-to-end flow as the half neared its end. Gabriel Sava had to pluck Kavanagh’s cross off the head of Danaher as Town ventured forward. The visitors left themselves exposed, and should have been penalised when Quinn played an immaculately weighted ball into the path of O’Brien. But with the goal at his mercy Fabio drove his shot off the crossbar to let Athlone off the hook.
The striker had a quick – if much more difficult – chance to atone when Sean Brennan found him with a cross on the run from the right, but his first-time volley was too high. Jordan Keegan then planted a dangerous cross into the box from the left but Schlingermann dived to prevent Quinn from profiting.
A minute before half time O’Brien latched on to a fine pass from Foley and appeared to be roughhoused off the ball by Danaher but referee Conor Fitzgerald was deaf to the appeals.
Full report in The Northern Standard

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