Swan touch seals victory
A BRACE of goals in the second half gave Bohemians a hard-earned victory over a resilient Athlone in an entertaining clash at Dalymount Park on Sunday.
The second period opened on a negative note for Bohemians, who fluffed a gilt-edged chance on 54 minutes to take the lead for the second time.
Referee Denis McArdle awarded a controversial penalty after a challenge by Val Keenan on Derek Swan, but left back Tommy Byrne failed with the spot kick as goalkeeper Shane Curran saved to his left.
But the versatile Byrne atoned for his earlier error when he created the second Bohemians goal 10 minutes later.
He made inroads down the left wing before flipping over a lofted cross which was met by central midfielder Tony O'Connor with a strong header from point blank range. Curran got a hand to the ball but could not prevent it from slithering out of his grasp and rolling over the goal line.
Bohemians sealed victory with a third strike 10 minutes from the finish. Brian Mooney made good headway down the left flank and sent over a cross which Derek Swan headed against the base of the far post. The same player reacted quickest to scoop the ball home.
There was still enough time left for Swan to hook a volley against the top of the crossbar, but it was not such a one-sided affair in the first half. The substantial gap in their respective league placings was not reflected in the play and Athlone would not have been flattered if they had surged into a two-goal lead by the 24th minute.
Firstly, Warren Parkes did well to turn James Coll in the 15th minute before firing in a right-footed shot which was beaten away by Dave Henderson.
Then Tommy Gaynor benefited from an Adrian Carbery through pass to smack in a left-footed effort which was parried by Henderson, with Parkes blazing the rebound over the bar with the goal at his mercy.
But it was Bohemians who took the lead against the run of play in the 26th minute. A Tommy Byrne corner was met by Maurice O'Driscoll at the near post with a firm header which entered the net via the underside of the crossbar.
However, Athlone were not to be denied and they notched an equaliser on 34 minutes when, following a foul by Coll on Gaynor, Parkes blasted in a free kick from 20 yards which took a slight deflection off the unfortunate O'Driscoll.
The Irish League Premier Division title race has been blasted wide open by the shock New Year's Day defeat of leading contenders Portadown and Glenavon. Portadown crashed to a 3-1 defeat by Crusaders and Glenavon were beaten 3-2 by Glentoran.