DERRY CITY 3, ATHLONE TOWN 2
Derry City earned a hard fought victory over basement club, Athlone Town at Brandywell Stadium to move into seventh place tonight and while it was far from a comfortable win, club skipper Cliff Byrne was happy with the result.
“Athlone made it as tough for us as we made it for ourselves but the objective was to get the three points and we did it,” said the ‘Candy Stripes’ captain. “That’s two home wins now on the bounce now. The opposition is never going to roll over so we’re happy with the win.
“Nobody’s going to come here and lie down and ask us to tickle their belly,” he laughed. “So you have to earn the win and whether it’s a comfortable win or not -a win is a win and we’re happy with that after last Monday night’s defeat in Dundalk.”
Athlone came out fighting and it was Byrne’s cousin, James O’Brien who opened the scoring when he buried his strike low into the corner on 15 minutes but Derry fought back with first half goals from former Athlone striker Enda Curran and Rory Patterson before Michael Duffy gave the ‘Candy Stripes’ a bit of breathing space early in the second period with an excellent strike.
A sublime free-kick from Athlone substitute, Jason Marks 15 minutes from the end set up a nervous finale for Roddy Collins’ troops but they held on to ensure victory.
Mick Cooke’s men arrived on Foyleside with real intent and the home support breathed a collective sigh of relief when Philly Gorman’s header at the back post from a free-kick was ruled out for offside after just nine minutes.
Derry were living dangerously and there were more anxious moments for the home side three minutes later as Kealon Dillon’s low strike from distance hit the post before going behind with goalkeeper, Gerard Doherty beaten.
Finally the visitors made the breakthrough on 15 minutes when Dean Jarvis was dispossessed close to the corner flag and when Athlone eventually got the ball to O’Brien, he buried his first time shot into the left corner.
City quickly turned the game on its head with two goals inside the next 15 minutes. Michael Duffy raced down the left flank and crossed with his right foot towards Curran who headed downwards and the ball bounced into the corner of the net for his second goal of the season.
And on the half hour mark, Patrick McEleney caused havoc in the Athlone defence with a superb throughball which sent Patterson clear and he beat Sexton to the ball before swivelling and slotting into the empty net from eight yards.
Athlone were not disheartened and they came close to an equaliser when Graham Rusk raced through on goal but his powerful strike from the edge of the six yard box was superbly saved by the legs of Doherty.
Athlone will have been disappointed to go in at the interval behind and they started confidently after the restart. Sean Byrne drove his cross into the Derry penalty area on 50 minutes and Gorman’s deft, glancing header wasn’t enough to direct the ball past Doherty who saved comfortably.
Doherty needed to be alert on 59 minutes when Alan Byrne cut the ball back from the byline and Gorman’s first time shot was saved by the Derry goalkeeper.
Michael Duffy put Derry further ahead on the hour when he exchanged passes with Curran before skipping past his marker and rifling his left foot shot into the net at the near post.
Shane McEleney, who started the game at centre half in place of the injured Ryan McBride, conceded a needless free-kick on the edge of his own area after a tangle with Gorman on 75 minutes. And second half substitute, Jason Marks curled the resultant free-kick into the top right corner - a terrific strike to get Athlone back into the contest.
Patrick McEleney’s outstanding curling strike from 30 yards almost put the game beyond Athlone with two minutes left on the clock but it rebounded back off the post with Sexton scrambling helplessly.
It was a nervous end to the game for the home side as they held on to claim victory but it was a gutsy performance from the league’s basement side who have now gone seven league games without gaining a single point.
Derry City: G. Doherty: R. Collins, C. Byrne, S. McEleney, D. Jarvis; P. McEleney, D. Ventre, J.P. McGovern (A. Barry 68) (M. Stewart 69), M. Duffy; R. Patterson, E. Curran; Subs not Used - C. Gallagher, C. Burke, R. Foy, M. Timlin, R. Curran.
Athlone Town: C. Sexton; S. Quigley, A. Byrne, C. McMahon, S. Byrne; K. Dillon (I. Sweeney 65), M. Hughes, J. O’Brien (B. Clancy 60), G. Rusk, S. Brennan (J. Marks 65); P. Gorman; Subs Not Used - P. Skinner, D. Brennan.
Referee - Rob Harvey (Dublin).