Athlone Town 3, Blues 3
For the second year in a row the Blues threw away a three goal lead at Lissywoollen but unlike last August they did not go on to score a late winner and in fact they were somewhat lucky to ravel home with a point.
The gaffer watched the game from the press box and he was not well pleased to see his side almost pluck defeat from the jaws of victory and it must be said that this all goes down to a brief moment of madness by Eoin Rhodes when he tangled with an Athlone player when defending a corner just before the break - neither the referee nor the near side linesman saw the incident but the other linesman did and a straight red was flashed.
At this stage the Blues were leading 3-1 and coasting, at times toying with Athlone such was the measure of their superiority. The fact that Athlone found the net a few minutes before the dismissal mattered little - this was men and boys, by far the best seen from the Blues so far this season - classy right across the pitch.
However the second half was much different as the Blues set out to defend their lead. Slowly Athlone began to dominate and pushed the Blues back. As the half wore on it became 'backs to the wall' for the Blues and to be honest the last quarter was squeaky bum time for players and fans alike. During this spell the home side scored twice but could not find the winner that they might have deserved. That said the Blues did put together a few decent counter attacks late in the half and had a decent penalty shout a couple on minutes from the end.
Up to the break the Blues were majestic with Anthony McAlavey pulling all the strings. He was irrepressible, scoring twice - the opener after eight minutes and the third ten minutes from the break. He could easily have had a hat-trick. In between his goals Darren Murphy found the net with a well struck direct free kick.
Kevin Burns was unavailable - working in the US for a few weeks and neither was Philly Gorman who was called up late for duty (army). Corey Chambers did well between the sticks until he went off late in the game to be replaced by Ben Sheehan who was unlucky to concede the equalising goal.
Best for the Blues on a disappointing night in addition to McAlavey were Dylan McGuire, Ian Sinnott and David O'Leary. Robbie Buckley also caught the eye.
The pitch at Lissywoollen was very soft after much rain during the day and although it did not rain during the game it was so bitterly cold than only those who were not fortified ahead of the game had any chance of keeping warm. About 75 Blues fans travelled to watch this one along with no more than 250 home fans. As expected the travelling Blues made by far the more noise.
Next up some Division 1 cawkies Cobh at the RSC in the postponed match and a chance to go second. Nobody will catch Limerick, so second is the prize for the rest.
Blues; Corey Chambers (Matthew Sheehan 76), Robbie Buckley, Ian Sinnott, Colum Nugent, Sean Byrne, Darren Murphy (Dean Broaders 46), James O'Brien, Dylan McGuire (Shane Mackey 81), David O'Leary, Eoin Rhodes, Anthony McAlavey. Unused subs: Jimmy Dermody, Dean Reidy.