On Friday Kerry looked to get a win under their belts once again with a game back at home in Mounthawk Park against Athlone Town. Kerry were very unlucky not to pick up a result last time out on St. Patrick’s Day when they visited Ferrycarrig Park in Wexford.
They had a serious handball claim go against them in the initial stages of the game and unfortunately cost them late on. Despite that Kerry showed great fight and determination and unluckily came away with a 2-1 loss.
Ahead of the game, Kerry manager Billy Dennehy showed his delight with being back at home after two consecutive away trips. He restated that the team is looking to continue to gain experience at the current level and continue their growth into the game. He mentioned that in the last home game against Treaty United the crowd acted as a twelfth man and helped the team fight hard to earn the draw.
The terrible wind and rainfall made this a tough game for both sides to be able to play their usual style. It was going to be a scrappy fixture where you could see only a handful of chances making the difference.
At the start of the first half, Kerry enjoyed most of the possession and the early signs were promising. Athlone man Matthew Leal was shown an early yellow card for a late foul on Kevin Williams and Ryan Kelliher’s thirty-yard effort was blocked and dealt with by the Athlone wall. Ten minutes later, captain Matt Keane showed signs of his inner Kevin De Bruyne with a fantastic long cross-field ball finding Graham O’Reilly down the right wing but his ball into the box found the side netting.
Kerry continued their growing pressure. A great run down the byline by Nathan Gleeson was delivered into Leo Gaxha who controlled well and spun to confuse the Athlone defender but had his shot blocked. Athlone started to get a share of the possession on the half an hour mark when they had a free kick on the right wing delivered in which proved to be a scramble and was dealt with by Kerry eventually.
Despite the slight spell of pressure by Athlone, Kerry finished the half by far the better team. A free kick was awarded to Kerry after Ryan Kelliher was fouled by Noah Van Geenen. The delivery in by Graham O’Reilly was directed well with power and precision but was headed away and led to nothing.
The last chance of the half came to Kerry’s creative diamond Leo Gaxha who tried to pull off a bicycle kick from yet another Graham O’Reilly cross, but he never connected to the ball and unfortunately did not trouble the Athlone defence at all.
Kerry had the advantage of not playing with the wind in the first half and unfortunately did not take advantage of that, it was now Athlone’s chance to do so, and it resulted in a heavy number of chances for the town. The first of which came two minutes after the restart where a scramble around the box had to be dealt with by an off the line clearance from Sean O’Connell.
Athlone’s best chance of the half came on the hour mark when a hard low cross from the left side of the box ricochets off a Kerry defender and was saved superbly by Wayne Guthrie in the Kerry net. Ukrainian striker Frantz Pierrot started to make himself a nuisance for Kerry’s defenders which began with a great shot just inside the sixteen-yard box that was put out well for a corner again by Guthrie.
Athlone kept the pressure going when the wind carried a long ball from keeper Enda Minogue and broke through to Pierrot. His shot was scuffed but his effort made it passed Guthrie and another clearance off the line was needed by Graham O’Reilly. Graham deserves an honorable mention for his fantastic work rate both defensively and offensively throughout the game.
One of Kerry’s only chances in the second half came from a freekick just to the left edge of the box which was won by Nathan Gleeson. They tried to play the ball back to the edge of the box, but the shot was blocked and resulted in nothing.
Athlone thought they found the opener in the 86th minute but a foul on Matt Keane saw the goal ruled out. Not too long after Athlone got the breakthrough and finally took advantage of their previous wasted opportunities when a very well controlled pass into the sixteen-yard box by Pierrot was played into an unmarked Valerii Dolia who slotted the ball into the near post late on. Kerry’s brilliant defensive work throughout the game went unrewarded and Athlone came away from Mounthawk narrow 1-0 winners.
Kerry are still looking for their first win in the league and would be disappointed that they did not come away with at least a point. With that said they should have their heads held high and take that near-perfect defensive performance in their stride as they go again next week with a trip to Bishopsgate as they take on Longford Town next Saturday.
Kerry Fc Team:
1. Wayne Guthrie, 27. Graham O’reilly, 4. Shane Guthrie, 15. Kevin Williams, 4. Shane Guthrie, 24. Jonathan Hannafin, 3. Sean O’connell, 8. Matt Keane (C), 17. Nathan Gleeson, 23. Ronan Teahan, 10. Leo Gaxha, 9. Ryan Kelliher
Subs: Aaron O’ Sullivan, Cian Barrett, Kalen Spillane, Alex Ainscough, Togor Silong, Kennedy Amechi, Cian Brosnan, Sean Kennedy, Sean Mcgrath.
Athlone Town Team:
1.enda Minogue, 2. German Fuentes Rodriguez, 4. Noah Van Geenen, 6. Patrick Hickey, 7. Adam Lennon, 8. Aaron Connolly (C), 9. Frantz Pierrot, 15. Haji Abdikadir, 19. Aaron Mcbride, 23. Isaie Louis, 25. Matthew Leal
Subs: Vladi Velikin, Charles Mutawe, Valerii Dolia (Goal 90’), Blake Ryan, Matthew Mccarrick, Oisin Duffy, Osaze Irhue, Nazar Zubkov, Matthew Baker.