Limerick FC 4-2 Athlone Town
TWO goals each from Rory Gaffney and Kieran Djilali ensured a first home win for Limerick FC in two months as they saw off Athlone Town 4-2 at Thomond Park on Friday night.
The Super Blues spurned several good chances in a first half which ended 1-1, but they asserted their superiority after the interval to consign relegation-battling Athlone to a damaging defeat.
It took Limerick less than 30 seconds to work the ball into a dangerous position, but Djilali’s cross was not met by a team-mate. Gaffney should have opened his account in the fifth minute when he was put through one on one with Ryan Coulter, but the Athlone goalkeeper stood his ground impressively.
He wasn’t so pleased, though, a couple of minutes later when his rushed clearance fell straight to Gaffney, who swept the ball into an empty net from outside the penalty area.
Coulter redeemed himself in the 13th minute as he produced a fine save to deny Gaffney, who had brilliantly jinked past two defenders before unleashing a left-foot strike.
Djilali’s shot from an acute angle on 15 minute hit the underside of the crossbar and, after it bounced back into play, Shane Duggan passed it back for Prince Agyemang, whose shot was deflected away for a corner.
Limerick really should have been 2-0 up when Djilali picked out Gaffney on the edge of the six-yard box, but the striker uncharacteristically missed when it looked easier to score.
On 27 minutes Djilali evaded his opponent’s sliding tackle to work a good position for himself, only to curl his shot wide despite the absence of any Athlone marking.
Gaffney and Djilali had further chances to extend Limerick’s lead but they didn’t make their pressure tell on the scoreboard and were made to pay for it 10 minutes before half-time when, out of nowhere, Athlone sprung the home side’s offside trap and Derek Doyle was left with a straightforward finish to equalise.
Limerick almost retook the lead four minutes later when Shane O’Connor’s deep cross was met by the head of Ian Turner, but Athlone got back to clear the ball off the line.
Martin Russell’s team were back in front 11 minutes into the second half after Kealan Dillon’s shot took a howitzer of a deflection off Patrick Nzuzi. The ball fell for Gaffney to gallop forward and force a good stop from Coulter, but Djilali was quick to the rebound, lashing it home to make it 2-1.
Midway through the second half the lead was extended. Alan Byrne was easily dispossessed by Lee J Lynch, who found Djilali in the penalty area. The former Sligo Rovers man took his time, rounding three players before finishing to the net for his second goal of the night.
Limerick were almost in for a fourth on 75 minutes when they broke quickly, but Gaffney delayed his pass to O’Connor on the left and the young winger was offside.
Summer signing Joseph Ndo, a one-time World Cup player with Cameroon, was introduced for his Limerick debut with a quarter of an hour to go, Prince Agyemang making way.
Athlone briefly threatened a stirring comeback when Byrne’s close-range header made it 3-2 in the dying stages and indeed there was time for one more goal, but it came at the other end as, almost immediately from the restart, Turner picked out Gaffney and the Galwegian striker put the result beyond any doubt.
It was a fruitful night for the Super Blues, who struck four and could have had more after failing to find the net in their last three home games, but Athlone’s six-game unbeaten run is over at the worst possible time as they prop up the table with just three matches remaining.