Derry City are left to regret missed opportunities
Athlone Town dug deep to earn a point and frustrate Derry City at the Brandywell last night.
At the end of a game which meant little to the Candystripes — who have one eye on next Sunday’s FAI Cup semi-final against Shamrock Rovers — it was Athlone who were the much happier team, as they picked up a valuable point in their battle against relegation.
After a rather flat start the game sprung to life on nine minutes when Athlone took the lead with their first shot on target.
Derek Doyle was played through on goal and won the race to the ball ahead of Gerard Doherty, before he flicked it past the Derry goalkeeper, with the ball striking the inside of the post before it rolled over the line.
Derry could have equalised within seconds as Stephen Dooley gathered the ball on the right wing and he cleverly picked out the unmarked Patrick McEleney on the edge of the area, but the midfielder couldn’t keep his shot down and the ball sailed over Ryan Coulter’s crossbar.
The equaliser finally came just before the half hour mark.
Dooley’s first time cross was superb as it caused panic in the Athlone penalty area. The ball was then sent out to the edge of the box where Rory Patterson was waiting to drill it low beyond the reach of Coulter to level the score at 1-1.
It should have been 2-1 for Derry just two minutes later as the hosts broke forward in a three on two attack.
Despite having two players in support, McEleney decided to go the whole way himself and he looked set to score, only for Coulter to somehow turn his effort around the post for a corner.
There was only one team interested in winning the game in the second half as Athlone hung on gamely for a point.
McEleney played in Mark Timlin and his cross found Patterson, whose shot from six yards was brilliantly saved by Coulter. The ball spiralled back in the direction of Patterson, who should have scored with the goalkeeper grounded, but his second effort smashed back off the post and Athlone somehow survived.
Derry were the only team doing any attacking at this stage and the second goal very nearly arrived with seven minutes remaining.
Patterson outmuscled Derek Prendergast and raced into the penalty area before laying the ball off for Michael Duffy, whose placed effort skimmed the post on its way wide.
Derry CITY: Doherty, Molloy (McNamee 76 mins), McBride, Barry, Jarvis, Timlin, Lowry, Duffy, Dooley (Daniels 76 mins), P McEleney, Patterson.
Athlone TOWN: Coulter, Hayes, Prendergast, Byrne, Dillon, Hughes, Brennan, Foley (O’Brien 65 mins), Doyle (Gorman 76 mins), Knight, Shorthall (Sweeney 50 mins).
Referee: Rob Harvey (Dublin).