LIMERICK FC made it back-to-back wins in the SSE Airtricity League Premier Division with a precious 2-1 win over basement side Athlone Town at Thomond Park on Good Friday.
Limerick moved up to eighth place in the table after following up on their away win over Bohemians with a crucial home success over the Midlanders before an attendance of 1,141.
Stuart Taylor’s charges should have won this game far more comfortably than by a single goal. However, the Superblues failed to convert a number of decent scoring opportunities, most notably in the 78th minute when Shane Tracy’s penalty kick was saved.
Having picked up their second Premier League win in a week, Limerick FC now face the second of two games in less than 72 hours when the Shannonsiders travel to the Brandywell on Easter Monday for a tie with Derry City, 3pm.
Limerick took the lead against Athlone on 21 minutes when Shane Tracy swung in a delightful free-kick from wide on the right and Robbie Williams glanced his header perfectly into the bottom corner of the net for a smashing and deserved opening goal.
The home side could have doubled their advantage soon after when, from another inch perfect delivery from Tracy’s free kick, Craig Curran headed back across the penalty area, but Rory Gaffney was unable to get sufficient power in his attempt on goal.
Athlone stunned Limerick with an equaliser five minutes before half-time when Kealan Dillon was rewarded for his perseverance as he broke through the Limerick defence, easily beating a couple of defenders, before flicking the ball past Blues ‘keeper Barry Ryan.
The game remained level at half-time, but Limerick were in front seven minutes after the re-start when substitute Tam McManus ghosted away from a couple of defenders before firing a terrific left shot low to the left corner of the net. Thirty three-year-old Scottish-born McManus joined Limerick from Rochester Rhinos in the North American USL Pro league last month. McManus started his career with Hibernian, where he made over 100 league appearances, and has also played with Derry City in the League of Ireland.
Limerick came oh so close to going 3-1 up in the 75th minute when Samuel Oji’s header came crashing back off the upright. The game took a dramatic twist in the 78th minute when Athlone Town netminder Paul Skinner was red-carded for taking down Limerick substitute Ross Mann as he raced through on goal. However, Athlone’s stand-in goalkeeper Sean Brennan saved Shane Tracy’s spot kick and Rory Gaffney blasted the rebound high over the visitors crossbar.
Limerick could well have been made pay for that miss late on, however, when Philly Gorman saw his well-struck effort flash inches past the right hand upright in the 90th minute.
LIMERICK FC - Barry Ryan, Shaun Kelly, Robbie Williams, Stephen Folan, Shane Duggan (Capt), Rory Gaffney, Craig Curran (Tam McManus 40), Shane Tracy, Prince Agyemang (Ross Mann 67), Samuel Oji, Jason Hughes.
ATHLONE TOWN - Paul Skinner, Conor McMahon, Sean Byrne, Derek Prendergast, Alan Byrne (Capt), Kealan Dillon (Jason Marks 87), Mark Hughes, Philly Gorman, Barry Clancy (Sean Brennan 78), Graham Rusk (Ian Sweeney 90+2), James O’Brien.
REFEREE - Anthony Buttimer (Cork)