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The home side went into the game looking to end a run of two league defeats while Athlone were hoping to preserve their unbeaten away record in the league. The away side started the brightest and nearly stunned the home fans in the opening seconds when Emeka Ownubiko’ right-wing cross was narrowly put wide by Stephen Place.
After that early scare Shelbourne settled down and began to dominate the proceedings. Their first effort on goal came after neat link up play by their front two as Anthony Flood’s cross picked out Madden but his volley lacked power. Robbie Hedderman was first in Paul Tuite’s notebook for indiscipline in the 6th minute.
The home side almost took the lead as Flood nearly produced something out of nothing. The striker latched onto a poor clearance from Des Hope and his snap shot almost surprised Shanahan in the visitor’s goal. The reds continued to dominate the early proceedings but they were unable to break down a resolute Town defence that was well marshalled by Hope and McGauley.
Athlone registered their first shot on target after seventeen minutes when Ownubiko skipped past Hedderman’s challenge but his shot was easy for Whelan to collect. The home side responded immediately by going up the other end and nearly scoring. Mark O’Brien played a precise through ball to Madden who rounded the keeper but was forced too wide. The keeper had time to recover, narrow the angle and make a smart save at the near post.
David Crawley was the second Shelbourne player booked after he dived in on Stephen Place on the half hour mark. Dermot Keely’s men continued to push for the opener and they should have gone into the break with the lead. Crawley’s in-swinging free kick missed everyone in the middle but found its way to Paddy Flood unmarked at the back post but he blazed his shot over the bar.
Dermot Keely made two changes at half time bringing on Derek Doyle and Darren Meenan as his side went in search of a goal. The home fans didn’t have to wait long as Shels tore into the visitor’s right from the re-start. Flood got his fourth league goal of the season in the 48th minute when he rose highest in the box to divert David Crawley’s expertly delivered free-kick past the outrushing Shanahan.
Flood turned from scorer to provider moments later as the home side doubled their advantage. The striker found space in behind left back Cleary and his cross caused havoc amongst the Athlone defenders. Eventually the ball broke to substitute Doyle at the back post and he blasted the ball high into the back of the net from a tight angle.
Brendan Place needed to change things up and he brought on Cathal Joyce in the 56 minute in an effort to get back into the game. Shelbourne were in control at this stage but this changed after Crawley was sent-off after picking up his second yellow card after another clumsy challenge on Place in the 65th minute.
The visitors almost made them pay straight away but Cassidy was on hand to clear off the line before Place could pounce. Athlone brought on Dunne for McGauley and the sub was called into immediate action having to divert Madden’s shot away from goal. Another chance went begging for the away side in the 76th minute when Williamson’s deep corner was met by Hope but his dipping header was cleared away by Quigley.
Shelbourne nearly finished the game off in the 78th minute when Madden’s stepped up to take a free kick just outside the box. His initial effort struck the wall but the rebound fell kindly to the Reds top scorer but his sweetly struck volley brought the best out of Shanahan in the Athlone goal. Darren Meenan was booked for the host’s moments later. Athlone almost got a consolation at the death when Cleary’s short corner found McGee free in the box but the striker’s shot come cross sailed over the bar.
Despite the win Shelbourne manager Dermot Keely was far from pleased with his team’s performance. “We were off the pace in the first. We can’t be pulling rabbits out of hats every week. There is way to play in football, there is an effort of level and commitment that’s minimum and didn’t have it tonight”.
Shelbourne: Whelan, Quigley, Crawley, Hedderman, Doherty, O’Brien (Doyle), McGill, Cassidy, Madden, Flood, McAllister (Meenan) . Subs Not Used: Murray, McMillan, Baker.
Athlone Town: Shanahan, Hamm, Cleary, McGauley (Dunne), Hope, O’Reilly, Ownubiko, Williamson, Place (Horan), Moran (Joyce) Subs Not Used: Stack, McGuinness.
Extratime.ie Man Of The Match: Anthony Flood – Scored and made the other goal.