Dundalk 0-0 Athlone Town
Ian Foster was forced to settle for a draw in his first match as Dundalk manager as, despite Sam Malsom’s best efforts, the Lilywhites were unable to breakdown a stubborn Athlone Town at Oriel Park on Sunday afternoon. Malson, one of nine debutants in the side, was lively throughout the game and threatened late on, firstly heading inches wide from 10-yards before smashing the post at the death.
Peter Cherrie and Michael Synnott were the only starters that previously played for Dundalk and for long spells it was typical pre-season fare, the hosts slowly getting to know each other but at times engineering some fine passing moves. Their first effort on goal came after just six minutes when, from a free-kick, Alan Cawley rolled the ball to Wayne Hatswell to attempt one of his trademark strikes, but the former Cambridge United defender’s effort was well held by former Lilywhites ‘keeper Chris Bennion.
Within 60 seconds, Athlone had a chance of their own when Niall Scullion cut in on the right and forced Cherrie to push the ball behind at his near post. The game then entered a quiet spell with both sides unable to open up the other’s defence, and the next chance didn’t arrive until seven minutes from the break. Again, it was Scullion who threatened, as he again cut in on the right, this time a low, powerful shot being gathered at the second attempt. Malson then broke through but was adjudged to be offside, a decision which looked very debatable, before an audacious 40-yard effort from the 22-year-old flew just wide of the target.
At the break, Foster made four changes with Cherrie, Jason Mok, Cawley and Neale Fenn being replaced by another quarter of debutants Matt Gregg, Dermot McCaffrey, Ritchie Hurlin and David McGowan. Again, there was little in the way of goalmouth action as former Dundalk striker Robbie Farrell totally miscued inside the area and Scullion drove over from the edge of the box following another good forward run. Then it was the turn of the hosts and the impressive Malson to threaten, as he controlled McCaffrey’s pass well on his chest 18-yards from goal before turning and hitting a shot which lacked power to seriously worry Bennion.
Bennion then made way for Michael Schlingermann to loud applause from the home support, who clearly recognised his huge contribution to the club over the past six years. Ciarán McGuigan and Stephen McDonnell also got run-outs for Dundalk, the latter particularly impressive with some neat passing. With the game seemingly petering out, the home side created the best chance of the game 13 minutes from time when Tom Miller made a storming run down the right before delivering a pinpoint cross for Malson whose header went within inches of breaking the deadlock. Stephen Maher then blazed over from a good position, and Malson was denied only by the post in the 91st minute as Dundalk looked for a late winner. However, despite having to settle for a draw, it was a good workout for Foster’s side, who welcome Shelbourne to Oriel Park on Tuesday night (kick-off 7.45pm).
DUNDALK FC (4-4-2): Peter Cherrie (Matt Gregg HT); Michael Synnott, Wayne Hatswell, Garry Breen (Ciarán McGuigan 66), Jason Mok (Dermot McCaffrey HT); Stephen Maher, Alan Cawley (Ritchie Hurlin HT), Tom Miller, Jack MacLeod (Stephen McDonnell 71); Neale Fenn (David McGowan HT), Sam Malson.
Unused Subs: Nathan Murphy, Billy Smith.
ATHLONE TOWN (4-4-2): Chris Bennion (Michael Schlingermann 61); Mark Nolan, Eoghan O’Shea (Brendan Turley HT), Stephen Caffrey (Alan Keely 58), Des Hope (Garvan Broughall 71); Niall Scullion (Shane Dolan 58), Stephen Place (Noel McGee 71), Kevin Dunne, Tom O’Halloran (Kevin Quinn 71); Robbie Farrell (Richie O’Hanlon 58), Gordon Watson (Austin Skelly HT).
Referee: Paul McLaughlin.