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A 0-0 draw never felt so sweet as Athlone snap 12-game losing streak

Keith Long’s team could have claimed all three points but were left ruing a late penalty miss.

Former Bray assistant Keith Long will be happy with the display of his Athlone players.
Former Bray assistant Keith Long will be happy with the display of his Athlone players.
Image: Cathal Noonan

Athlone Town 0

Bray Wanderers 0

NEW ATHLONE TOWN manager Keith Long succeeded in breaking Athlone’s run of 12 successive defeats in all competitions by steering them to a 0-0 draw with his former club Bray Wanderers tonight.

However, the new supremo at the midlands club will look back with regret on two goals that were ruled out for offside and a missed Sean Brennan penalty with seven minutes to play that could easily have given him a dream start in his new role.

It appeared, early on, as if the change in leadership had borne fruit right from the start as Athlone went into this game playing with a confidence and cohesion that had been absent from their play in recent weeks.

An injury to leading scorer Philip Gorman in the warm up forced Graham Rusk into a solo role up front but behind him their midfield quartet all buzzed around the place and linked up very well, regularly working the ball into key attacking positions. Their quick feet also yielded dividends in the shape of free kicks in attacking positions and it looked as if they had capitalised on one such chance when Seán Brennan’s inswinging delivery from the right wing bounced on the six yard box and crept over the line amidst heavy traffic, but an offside decision was given by the linesman to rule out the strike.

VRENNO Athlone's Sean Brennan missed a late Town penalty. Source: INPHO/Donall Farmer

Athlone had the ball in the Bray net twice in the first half, but on both occasions they were foiled by the offside flag. Derek Prendergast was the second player to put the ball in the Bray net when he slid in at the far post to guide home James O’Brien’s initial strike, but on this occasion there could be no disputing the linesman’s call.

Bray had their chances in the opening half too, most notably when former Athlone Town player Graham Kelly struck the base of the post with a deflected free kick from twenty five yards out. The visitors also caused huge confusion in the Athlone six yard box when they got good deliveries in from wide areas. Dave Scully had a glorious chance to put Bray in front after 16 minutes when Athlone failed to clear a right wing throw in. The ball broke to the midfielder with just Paul Skinner to beat, but his low shot was hit straight at the keeper’s feet and eventually was cleared out for a corner kick.

In general, Athlone enjoyed the lion’s share of possession, even though that was of limited use in a game where both teams looked to attack on the break as often as possible.

Goalmouth incidents were rarer after the interval but it looked as if Athlone might steal a victory when Robbie Moloney was sent off for pulling down Graham Rusk in the penalty area with seven minutes remaining. James O’Brien’s well weighted pass found the Athlone attacker who had got behind the defence and while contact with Robbie Moloney looked to be minimal. Once Kevin O’Regan took the decision to award the penalty he had little choice but to send the full-back off for a professional foul.

Wanderers goalkeeper Stephen McGuinness came to the rescue of his defender with a fine low save from Brennan. Bray comfortably held on throughout the closing stages, despite their numerical disadvantage, and could even have nicked a victory when Declan Brennan fell at the wrong time and allowed Shane Byrne to advance on goals just 30 seconds after coming on the field. Byrne failed to get his shot away however as Seán Byrne of Athlone produced a vital tackle to at least salvage a first point of the season for the reigning first division champions.

ATHLONE TOWN: Paul Skinner; Conor McMahon, Derek Prendergast, Declan Brennan, Barry Clancy; Alan Byrne; Jason Marks (Sean Byrne 71), Kealon Dillon, James O’Brien, Seán Brennan; Graham Rusk.

Subs not used: Mark Hughes, Ian Sweeney, Stephen Quigley, Michael Monaghan, Craig Sexton (GK)

BRAY WANDERERS: Stephen McGuinness; Niall Cooney, Dave Webster, Adam Mitchell, Robbie Maloney; Dean Zambra; Dave Scully, Dave Cassidy, Graham Kelly, Shane O’Neill (Adam Hanlon 71); Ismahil Akinade.

Subs not used: Shane Redmond (GK), Gary Curran, Jamie McGlynn, Danny O’Connor, Ciarán Byrne, Shane Byrne.

Referee: Kevin O’Regan

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Kevin Egan

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