CORK City recorded their first away victory since August 2019, as their defeated Athlone Town 2-0 in the First Division at the Athlone Town Stadium on Friday night. Alec Byrne and Jack Baxter’s goals gave City a much-needed victory.
Colin Healy made several changes from the team that were defeated by Cabinteely. Steven Beattie came back into the starting 11 – his first start in nine games. Gearoid Morrissey returned from suspension, with Beineon O’Brien Whitmarsh and Jonas Hakkinen also coming into the City side.
City settled the better of the teams. Healy’s side looked comfortable keeping possession and Morrissey registered his team’s first effort on goal but could not find the target.
City were disciplined without the ball and were forcing Athlone into hitting long hopeful passes. Baxter was starting to make his presence felt in the game and the on-loan Preston North End player was first to test Michael Schlingermann but the Athlone goalkeeper dealt with the strike comfortably.
The hosts grew into the game and started to find joy down their right-hand side. James Doona, who scored against City earlier in the season, first game close, before City goalkeeper Mark McNulty was forced into making a smart save from Aidan Friel.
City’s early dominance begun to fade. The service into O’Brien Whitmarsh was of little quality and the striker became more isolated.
Athlone came close to taking the lead when Kurtis Byrne’s effort was parried by McNulty but fortunately for City, Gordon Walker was on hand to clear. It was excellent positioning by the defender and demonstrated again just how important a player Walker has become in this City team.
Adam Wixted was causing City a lot of problems by coming in off the right-hand side into pockets and asked a lot of questions of the City defence.
City came close to taking the lead with six minutes remaining in the half. Darragh Crowley laid the ball off to the overlapping Walker who’s cross eventually fell to the onrushing Cian Murphy. However, his left-footed strike was excellently saved by the diving Schlingermann.
The Rebel Army did manage to break the deadlock on the stroke of halftime. O’Brien-Whitmarsh done well to dig out a cross from inside the Athlone penalty area and after some sloppy defending from Adrian Carberry’s side, the ball fell kindly to Byrne who finished from close range.
The first half was a much better showing from City than previous games and they got that bit of luck for the goal that they haven’t been getting recently.
Athlone started the second half on the front foot, but City were able to deal with any danger. Healy has always praised his team’s work ethic and his players were demonstrating their commitment for their manager again. The City players worked tirelessly out of possession and were determined to hold onto their lead and extend it. Murphy came close to scoring but was denied by the feet of Schlingermann.
The return of Beattie brought some much-needed experience to the team and the former Sligo Rovers was playing a big part in City maintaining the lead by making some important interceptions.
Carberry’s men almost gifted City a second goal. Athlone defender Dylan Hand delayed on the ball and O’Brien Whitmarsh dispossessed the defender before passing to Baxter, but Schlingermann was equal to his excellent strike.
City Doubled their lead in the 89th minute. Baxter collected the ball inside the Athlone penalty area and superbly finished into the roof of the Athlone net.
Oran Crowe was brought late on to become another member of the City academy to make his senior debut.
Michael Schlingerman, Daly, Delaney (Nealon 86), Friel, Hand; Wixted, McKenna, Hollywood Brookes (72), McCann (Reynolds 58), Doona; Byrne.
McNulty; Walker, Coleman, Hakkinen, Beattie, Baxter (Crowe 90), Morrissey, Byrne (Holland 59), Crowley, Murphy (McGlade); O’Brien-Whitmarsh (Walsh 90).