A stunning 30 yard strike from Robert Douglas earned Bluebell United a deserved draw with Athlone Town at John Hyland Park on Saturday night. The sides will meet again on Tuesday night with a place in the third round of the FAI Ford Cup again at stake.
Intermediate Cup runners up Bluebell begun in determined fashion as Andy Noonan’s men were seeking to extend their season. Striker Shane Stritch almost broke the deadlock on six minutes, creating enough space for a shot on the edge of the penalty area, Stritch fired low beyond Paul Skinner who was grateful to see the ball rebound away off the foot of the post.
The hosts high tempo approach forced their First Division opponents on the back foot and moments after Stritch went close Bluebell found the net. Captain Glen Madden burst into the penalty area for the left side and, having skipped beyond the challenge of Niall Scullion, was sent tumbling by Aidan Collins. Former Longford Town striker, Tony Griffiths drilled the resulting spot-kick past Skinner for a surprise lead.
With a wealth of League of Ireland experience in Mark Rooney, Trevor Molloy and the support acts of Stritch and former under-age international striker, Darragh Satelle, Bluebell didn’t look out of their depth as they sought a second goal.
After some shuffling of positions in midfield, Athlone slowly began to earn their corn. Scullion slide a pass through for Ian Sweeney but the winger’s low cross failed to beat Bluebell goalkeeper Karl Coleman at his near post. Sweeney became more prominent in the immediate minutes after and on the half hour he drilled home a leveler.
A cross from the left was only half cleared to the edge of the area, but with the ball skimming up off the surface the awaiting Sweeney had plenty to do, however the winger expertly fired past Coleman with the aid of a slight deflection off Madden.
Bluebell sprung from the traps in the second period two opportunities to regain the lead came and went within five minutes of the restart. Peter Darcy latched onto a pass from Douglas, the midfielder ushered himself into the penalty area and clipped the ball across the face of goal. Satelle was arriving from the right side but the cross was inches too high.
Molloy then pounced on a mis-control in the Athlone midfield, he angled a pass for Douglas who released a low shot which Skinner rebuffed with his feet. Noonan’s men sustained the pressure being opposed on their opponents and Skinner was called upon again just before the hour. Douglas skipped in from the left flank onto his right foot and powered a low shot towards the bottom corner but the former Shelbourne shot-stopper got across well to turn the ball around his post.
As the half wore on the game became more open and seemingly played into the Town’s hands, Philip Gorman met a Niall Lanigan corner but failed to keep his header from seven yards out.
Then with 66 minutes on the clock, Sweeney bagged himself a brace with a arrowing drive into the top corner. Once again the teenager sauntered into the right position just outside the Bluebell area and sprung into action as the ball was headed clear, a quick touch to control was followed by a sweet strike beyond Coleman.
Bluebell regrouped and came with a fresh wave of attacks, substitute Sean Stewart misguided his header when picked out at the far post by Molloy. With 14 minutes remaining Douglas earned his side a replay. Coleman’s kick-out was contested by Griffiths and Neil Marney, the ball broke loose, Douglas was first on the scene to unleash a tremendous first time effort which Skinner, at full stretch, could get nowhere near.
Both sides went in search of a winner in the closing quarter, on-loan St Patrick's Athletic midfielder Ryan Coombes couldn’t generate enough power in his header to beat Coleman while at the opposite end Molloy and then Stewart were denied by Skinner.
Bluebell United: Karl Coleman, Mark Rooney, Ian Cherry, Peter Sherlock, Glen Madden, Robert Douglas, Tony Griffiths, Peter Darcy, Trevor Molloy, Darragh Satelle, Shane Stritch. Subs: Darragh Killeen for Rooney; Sean Stewart for Satelle.
Unused: Gerard Rafter, Eamon Lynch, Andrew Cleary, Patrick Farrelly.
Booked: Robert Douglas, Peter Darcy, Trevor Molloy, Peter Sherlock
Athlone Town: Paul Skinner, Niall Scullion, Neil Marney, Aidan Collins, Barry Clancy, Lee Dixon, Rod Collins, Niall Lanigan, Ian Sweeney, Mark Hughes, Philip Gorman. Subs: Toyeeb Mustapha for Dixon; Ryan Coombes for Lanigan.
Unused: Craig Sexton, Garvan Broughall, Brian Gill, Robbie Clark.
Booked: Lee Dixon, Niall Lanigan
Referee: Simon Rogers
Attendance: 140 (estimate)
Extratime.ie Man of the Match: Ian Sweeney