Poor start for new Blues
Athlone Town 1 - Waterford FC 0
This was not what the doctor ordered. After weeks of excitement a large group of supporters made their way to Athlone on Friday last in high spirits and convinced that the new look Blues would bag all three points and get the new season up and running but following the 90 minutes it was the new look Athlone team who were celebrating. The Waterford team did not really gel and it was clear that this was the first time they were playing a competitive game together. There is no doubt whatsoever that this current Blues team is one of the best we have seen for a very long time so hopefully with another weeks training under their belts they will get up and running against Cabinteely at the RSC on Friday night next.
Waterford started on the front foot with Kenny McEvoy getting free down the right channel on two minutes but his teasing cross into the penalty area was headed over his own crossbar by Athlone defender Kirlis Grigorovs at the expense of a fruitless corner kick.
Dean O'Halloran whipped in a free kick from the left after he was fouled on six minutes that picked out Kenny Browne inside the penalty area but his left-footed effort was just inches wide of the far post of Athlone goalkeeper Igors Labuts.
It was Browne that carved out the next chance for Waterford on 24 minutes when Patrick McClean sprayed a free kick out to the left channel for Dean O'Halloran and after he picked out the head of the central defender with a fine cross, his header lacked power as Labuts saved.
The home side should have taken the lead less than two minutes later when Jason Molloy beat two Blues players out on the left side before putting in a cross that Colm Coss but his goalbound effort was superbly blocked by defender Shane O'Connor.
Athlone were denied the lead goal by a fine save from keeper Ian McLoughlin on 31 minutes when a mistake in the defence from Jake Evans saw Jose Viegas get clear on the left side of the penalty area but the Blues netminder got down to produce a low smart save.
Waterford needed to up their level of performance for the second period after failing to sparkle in the first half and it was Sander Puri that could have put his side in front two minutes into the half when he got on the end of a knockdown from Patrick McClean but Athlone keeper Igors Labuts saved at the feet of the attacker.
Shane O'Connor went agonisingly close to making the breakthrough for the Blues on 62 minutes when a neat passage of play saw Jake Evans set up Sander Puri on the right side and after his cross fell nicely to the left back, his shot went just inches wide of Igors Labuts right-hand post.
Mark O'Sullivan did have the ball in the back of the Athlone net less than sixty seconds later but his effort was ruled out for offside before the hosts had a glorious chance on 64 minutes when Val Feeney latched onto a cross from David Brookes however he blazed over the bar from 12 yards.
With the Blues fans on the tenterhooks as the game entered the final quarter, O'Sullivan did get behind the Athlone defence to get onto a long ball from Kenny Browne but despite getting past keeper Labuts, the breaking ball was cleared by defender David Brookes.
It looked as if the new look Waterford would have to settle for a point on the opening night but they were left silenced with two minutes left on the clock when defender Jake Evans was caught in possession and after Val Feeney set up Colm Coss, he beat keeper Ian McLoughlin with a left-footed strike from 25 yards
ATHLONE TOWN: Igors Labuts, Niall Scullion (Fredrico Hernandez `56), David Brookes, Kirlis Grigorovs, Cormac Raftery, Dragog Srfijan, Jason Molloy, Colm Coss, Jason Lyons, Val Feeney, Jose Viegas
WATERFORD FC: Ian McLoughlin; Jake Evans, Kenny Browne, Patrick McClean, Shane O'Connor (David McDaid `82), Dean O'Halloran (Derek Daly `62), Tom Smith, Garry Comerford, Kenny McEvoy, Sander Puri; Mark O'Sullivan.
Referee: David Keeler (Cork)