Athlone Town 0, Derry City 1
PATRICK McEleney’s stunning free-kick at Lissywoollen presented Derry City with a first away win of their league campaign and moved Peter Hutton’s side into sixth place in the Premier Division table.
The in-form midfielder rattled the back of the net with a 35 yard thunderbolt of a free-kick 19 minutes into the first half against bottom of the table, Athlone Town.
It was the Shantallow man’s fourth goal of the season in all competitions and his second in the space of four days, following on from his strike against Aberystwyth Town in the Europa League qualifying round win last Thursday night.
The strike was enough to give City their first win in the league since the 2-0 victory over Drogheda United back on May 23rd and it was the second league win since Hutton took the managerial reigns.
Hutton’s troops, however, had to dig deep to hold out for the much needed win as a resurgent Athlone enjoyed the best share of the chances in the second half.
Indeed, Athlone’s top goalscorer, Philly Gorman struck the crossbar while Gerard Doherty had to be at his best to keep out Sean Brennan’s shot.
With skipper, Cliff Byrne suspended and Mark Timlin injured, Hutton was forced to make changes to the team which started in the previous two matches against Dundalk and Aberystwyth.
Danny Ventre was recalled to the starting line-up in the right back position as Dean Jarvis was dropped to the bench while Shane McEleney replaced Byrne at centre half. And new signing Philip Lowry was handed his full debut in the centre of midfield.
The decisive goal came in the middle of the first-half when McEleney blasted home superbly from 35 yards. The strike was right up alongside his wonderful goal at Dalymount Park earlier in the season!
Gorman had a great opportunity to level matters seven minutes later when Danny Ventre under-hit a back pass and left the striker with a clear sight on goal, but Shane McEleney came to the rescue with a vital last-ditch tackle.
Gorman then rattled the post with his close-range header.
Athlone looked well worth an equaliser throughout the second half, but failed to take full advantage of a Derry side that were visibly tiring just three days after that European tie at Brandywell.
Brennan brought out the best from Doherty with a 25- yard drive that looked to be dipping under the crossbar, but with half an hour still to play, Athlone had plenty of time to produce an equaliser and looked good value to do so.
Despite enjoying plenty of possession in that last 30 minutes, however, they failed to fashion an equaliser and Derry gleefully took all three points.
The result sees Derry climb to sixth place in the SSE Airtricity Premier Division but leaves Athlone six points adrift of UCD at the foot of the table.
ATHLONE TOWN: Paul Skinner; Stephen Quigley, Derek Prendergast, Alan Byrne, Sean Byrne; Mark Hughes; Sean Brennan (Ian Sweeney 81), Kealan Dillon, James O’Brien, Graham Rusk (John Mulroy 81); Philip Gorman; Subs not used: Declan Brennan, Thomas Mulroney, Barry Clancy, Jason Marks, Ryan Coulter.
DERRY CITY: Gerard Doherty; Danny Ventre, Ryan McBride (Dean Jarvis HT), Shane McEleney, Aaron Barry; Barry Molloy, Barry McNamee; Philip Lowry (Ryan Curran 86), Patrick McEleney (Nathan Boyle 75), Michael Duffy; Rory Patterson; Subs not used: Josh Tracey, Ciarán Gallaghe, Tony McNamee, Cormac Burke.
Referee: Graham Kelly