Galway United made it four wins in a row as they defeated Athlone Town 3-1 at Eamonn Deacy Park on Friday night, stretching their lead at the top of the SSE Airtricity League First Division table to 12 points.
David Hurley’s first half penalty put the hosts ahead on a glorious evening in Terryland, before Stephen Walsh doubled United’s lead on his 275th appearance for the club. Frantz Pierrot pulled one back for the visitors from the penalty spot, but Killian Brouder restored United two-goal advantage just five minutes later to secure all three points for the Tribesmen.
John Caulfield reintroduced Stephen Walsh to the starting lineup after serving his suspension as he replaced Rob Manley. Caulfield was then forced into a late change just before kick-off as Regan Donelon was replaced by Oisin O’Reilly, meaning youngster Steven Healy made the substitutes bench.
United started the game on the front foot as Edward McCarthy got the better of his man and whipped in a dangerous cross from the right wing, which forced Athlone goalkeeper Vladislav Velikin into action to divert it away from danger.
Velikin was needed for his side once again as Maurice Nugent directed his header on target for Galway’s first effort on target of the match.
Francely Lomboto started the game brightly, winning possession back off his marker German Fuentes Rodriguez and forcing the corner for the home side.
Lomboto continued to cause issues for the Town defence when he won United a penalty with 10 minutes played. He picked up possession on the left, came inside, and drew the foul from Athlone’s number six Patrick Hickey forcing the referee to point to the spot.
David Hurley stepped up and slotted past Velikin into the bottom left corner to put United one goal to the good, notching his eighth goal of the campaign.
Just before the 20-minute mark, Walsh went down in the Athlone box, but the referee waved away the appeals and the visitors launched a counter attack down the right wing which resulted in Frantz Pierrot going close with his first-time effort at the front post.
United tested Velikin in the Athlone goal again when O’Reilly whipped in a dangerous ball to the back post where Walsh headed goalwards, but the keeper was equal to it. Only a matter of moments later, Hurley delivered a dangerous corner into a crowded six-yard box and Velikin rose to claim, but the keeper lost control of it before the referee blew for a free out to save the blushes of Athlone’s number 30.
The Tribesmen continued to push for their second before the break as Walsh received the ball with his back to goal on the edge of the box, before turning and firing a left footed effort just wide of the post. Just a minute later, Vincent Borden let fly with a well-struck volley which had to be touched wide of the post by the busy visiting goalkeeper.
Two minutes before the half-time whistle, Walsh was on the end of another Galway attack as he headed McCarthy’s cross into the ground, but it bounced up onto the crossbar and came out off the crossbar again before the visitors could eventually clear their lines.
The visitors made three changes at half-time as they looked to turn the tide of the game and the opening five minutes of the second half were more competitive than much of the first 45 minutes.
The Tribesmen had 13 corners in the first half and with their first of the second period, they doubled their lead. Another dangerous delivery into the six-yard box caused panic in the Athlone defence and they could only clear as far as Walsh who struck a half-volley powerfully into the bottom corner for his seventh goal of the season with 52 minutes played.
The hosts continued to control possession and create chances with O’Reilly striking a speculative effort just wide of the post, and McCarthy coming ever so close to meeting Conor McCormack’s teasing cross.
With 64 minutes played, the visitors got the ball into the feet of their dangerman Pierrot, he turned and went down in the box and the referee pointed to the spot. The in-form striker stepped up and made no mistake to halve the deficit and grab his 12th goal of the season so far.
However, just as the visitors got a lifeline and looked to push for an equaliser, United restored their two-goal lead. Another goalmouth scramble ensued following a corner and Killian Brouder applied the finishing touch to make it 3-1 to the hosts.
The woodwork was struck again and it was McCarthy this time, his header striking the frame of the goal with 15 minutes left to play.
Those 15 minutes, plus five minutes of stoppage time, were controlled by the Tribesmen and it saw the men in maroon earn another massive three points in their push for promotion.
Galway United: B. Clarke, C. O’Keeffe, M. Nugent, K. Brouder, O. O’Reilly (E. O’Connor 75’), V. Borden (M. Rowe 84’), C. McCormack (R. Slevin 68’), E. McCarthy, F. Lomboto (D. Clarke 75’), D. Hurley (I. Keita 84’), S. Walsh.
Athlone Town: V. Velikin, G. Rodriguez, N. van Geenen, N. Zubkov (D. Curtin 46’), H. Abdikadir, P. Hickey, A. Connolly (C. Mutawe 80’), V. Dolia (A. Lennon 46’), J. Campion-Hinds. M. Leal (J. McGlone 46’), F. Pierrot (M. Baker 80’).
Next up, Galway United travel to the Carlisle Grounds to take on Bray Wanderers on Friday June 2nd, kick off is at 7:45pm.