Athlone Town broke 10-man UCD’s spirited resistance to come away with all three points after an entertaining 90 minutes in the UCD Bowl.
The home side looked comfortable until Sean Coyne’s 55th minute red card handed Town the initiative. Despite stubborn defending from the Students, the numerical advantage told in the end, as Philip Gorman’s double continued Town’s impressive start to the season.
Both sides started slowly, feeling their way into the game. It wasn’t long, as one would expect from two former Premier Division teams, that they settled and began probing each other.
UCD were first to threaten. After some decent interplay, Conor Cannon set up Gary O’Neill inside the box, but a combination of Cusack and Quigley denied the UCD number eight.
Ten minutes later, UCD went even closer, as the woodwork saved Athlone Town. Jamie Doyle’s free-kick smashed straight off the wall, and he was first to react to the breaking ball. His left footed drive was half blocked, and the ball spun high towards goal, wickedly dipping. Catching everyone by surprise, Cusack was relieved to see his crossbar save him.
It wasn’t all one way traffic, however. The UCD fans breathed a sigh of relief 25 minutes in. A superb delivery from a free-kick 25 yards out found Philip Gorman just unable to connect with the ball, as Corbett gratefully claimed it in the UCD goal.
Just a minute later, Gorman threatened again. After a lovely turn, and good interplay with Doyle, he produced an impressive effort with the outside of his boot from 25 yards. Corbet was alert to the danger, and made the save as the shot swerved inside his post.
With ten minutes to go in the half, UCD found themselves in front. Cannon, picking the ball up deep, drove at the Athlone Town defence.
His ball through for Doyle was poor, and it looked like the chance had been lost. The big UCD number 19 persevered though, and forced an error after tussling with Quigley and Collins. Continuing his run, Cannon found himself with just the keeper to beat when the ball squirmed free. He duly obliged to send the Students in leading at the break.
Athlone almost equalised moments into the second half. A deep cross from the left found Chindea running to meet it – his goalbound drive denied by the outstretched leg of Sean Coyne, who recovered brilliantly.
It was to be Coyne’s last major involvement in the game, seeing red just ten minutes into the second half. A super ball from midfield split the UCD defence.
With Chindea favourite to make the ball, Coyne just clipped his heel. The Town winger went down, and referee Paula Brady had no hesitation in dismissing the full back. Coyne will feel hard done by, as the ball was running wide, and he had defenders beside him. Nonetheless, this would prove the game’s turning point.
Foley almost levelled from the resulting free-kick. He caught it on the laces from all of 35 yards out. With the ball dipping severely, Corbet did well to push the ball behind with a strong right hand.
Athlone Town upped the pace, and had UCD scrambling at the back. First, a Foley ball in was deflected narrowly wide of the far post, and then Tobin cleared off the line from a corner, with Foley again providing the delivery.
On 67 minutes, Kougoun was at his best, blocking Gorman’s shot and clearing off the line with the keeper beaten.
Just when it was beginning to look like one of those days for Town, Gorman struck. It began with some super skill from Coughlin on the left, beating his man, and stepping inside Kougoun before squaring the ball towards Gorman. With Corbet committed, the Town frontman scooped the ball towards the far corner to level matters.
UCD looked to have survived with a point, but were guilty of sloppiness in the final minute. Having cleared the danger, an underhit pass in midfield allowed Quigley to nick the ball.
A fantastic early cross found Gorman, who had peeled away at the back. Rising early, he looped a header back across goal, and saw his effort crash in off the underside of the bar.
A harsh lesson for the Students, as Athlone continue their fine form.
Pundit Arena MOTM: Eric Foley
He stamped his authority on the game after the sending off. Constantly menacing with his delivery, and the catalyst for the vistors’ comeback.
UCD: 1. Corbet, 13. Tobin, 2. Coyne, 12. McLaughlin, 24. Kougoun, 8. O’Neill, 6. Sloggett, 26. Watts, 11. Mulhall, 9. Cannon 17. Doyle
Subs: 16. Conor Mackey, 15. Ryan Swan, 7. Belhout, 19. Kirwan, 22. Watson
Athlone Town: 1. Cusack, 2. Quigley, 3. Hand, 4. Dunne, 5. Collins, 6. Foley, 7. Chindea, 8. Mulroney, 9. Gorman, 10. Coughlan, 11. Doyle
Subs: 12. Boyne, 14. Burke, 15. Doolin, 16. Brown, 17. Purdy, 18. O’Connor, 20. Dunican
Gavin Nugent, Pundit Arena