By Gerard Grimes
Drogheda United extended their unbeaten run as they made it three wins in a row with a 2-1 victory away to Athlone Town on Friday evening.
A brilliant move finished by Conor Barry gave the home side the lead early on but Drogheda equalised just before half time through Aaron Molloy before Drogheda captain Sean Thornton headed home the winner midway through the second half.
Drogheda manager Pete Mahon was forced into making two changes as Lloyd Buckley and Stephen Dunne started in place of the injured duo of Colm Deasy and Marc Griffin.
After a scrappy opening where both sides struggled to keep hold of possession and grab control of the game, it was Athlone who opened the scoring on 11 minutes as a brilliant team move resulted in Barry finishing well by Stephen McGuinness in the Drogheda goal.
Drogheda attempted to get back themselves back into the game as they stringed together passes. However, those passes were largely in their own half and the visitors rarely threatened the Athlone goal.
Drogheda then had a scare as half approached when what looked like a simple backpass to McGuinness resulted in the goalkeeper completely missing the ball, only to fortunately see the ball go just wide of the near post and out for a corner.
Despite Drogheda attempting to string passes together in an attempt to get back into the game, the equaliser in the 43rd minute came from what can only be described as route one football. A superb long ball from centre back Niall Cooney was brilliantly controlled by midfielder Aaron Molloy who held off the challenge of an Athlone defender before slotting by Ryan Coulter to make it 1-1.
A much improved Drogheda came out in the second half, largely thanks to a positional change which saw Thornton drop into a deeper midfield role, allowing Molloy to push forward into a more attacking role.
That change seemed to work almost from the start of the second half as Drogheda straight away looked the better side as they began to catch out Athlone on numerous occasions.
Their first chance of the second half came as a superb ball was played towards Derek Doyle at the back post but the midfielder couldn’t get his head or foot to it.
However, the Drogheda pressure eventually paid off as the visitors took a deserved lead on 69 minutes thanks to captain Thornton as Athlone repeatedly failed to clear a corner before the ball bounced up to allow Thornton to head home to make it 2-1 to the visitors.
Following the goal, Drogheda brought on fresh legs as they introduced striker Liam Donnelly in place of Derek Doyle and it was Donnelly who was then at the heart of almost every Drogheda move for the remainder of the game.
Drogheda held the ball well during the last twenty minutes while still creating chances and the best of those chances came on a counter attack as Aaron Ashe powered forward with the ball but instead of passing to any of his three teammates, he went himself and saw his shot go wide of Coulter’s goal.
Athlone did manage to create the odd chance up the other end and their best efforts came as they hit the upright twice in quick succession before Drogheda got off the hook thanks to an Athlone player being flagged offside.
Drogheda continued to hold onto the ball and hung on for the win despite more late Athlone pressure as they continue to build momentum ahead of a big game against fellow promotion hopefuls Shelbourne.
Calvin Douglas (Ross Purdy 80’)
Conor Barry (Kevin Farragher 78’)
David Cassidy (Adam Kelly 64’)
Adam Wixted (Mark Doyle 86’)
Sean Brennan (Sam O’Connor 90’)
Derek Doyle (Liam Donnelly 71’)