Athlone Town suffer dreaded drop after brave effort
Athlone Town 1 Bray Wanderers 1
Athlone's brave effort to stay in the Premier Division ended in disappointment as they were relegated after just one season back in the top-flight.
The 2013 First Division champions were held to a draw by Bray at Athlone Town Stadium last night after playing the entire second half with 10 men.
But they needed to better UCD's result and hope the Students failed to beat Drogheda at the Bowl. However, the College now face the two legged promotion/relegation play-off against Galway FC next week.
The Westmeath club had lost their first 10 league matches, but rallied to take the relegation battle to the final game of the season.
With his father Garry sitting in the home dug-out as Athlone coach, Bray's Dean Zambra unleashed a wonder strike to consign Keith Long's side to the dreaded drop to the second tier.
Wanderers started brightly and were denied an opener after a quarter of an hour when Ryan Coulter dived to make a sprawling save to keep out Ismahil Akinade's header. The Midlanders recovered well to take the lead five minutes later. Bray captain Dave Webster was adjudged to have handled Eric Foley's free under pressure from Alan Byrne.
Striker Philip Gorman brought his tally to 10 league goals for the season when he converted from the spot.
Yet, the home side were dealt a blow when defender Byrne was sent off for a second booking after bringing down Jake Kelly in the 38th minute.
Despite the numerical disadvantage, Athlone held the lead until the hour mark, when a Bray corner wasn't cleared properly and Graham Kelly laid the ball off to Zambra (pictured), who struck a brilliant 25-yard shot to the top corner of the net. With nine minutes remaining, Coulter blocked well with his legs to thwart Jake Kelly after the winger had been played in by Graham Kelly.
Despite being a man down, Athlone went close to a late winner, but Stephen McGuinness superbly clipped the ball off Derek Doyle's feet in the 87th minute. Then in injury time, sub Graham Rusk raced clear but his effort went just wide of the Bray posts.
Athlone Town: Coulter; Hayes, Prendergast, Byrne, Knight; Foley; Sweeney (Collins 43), Brennan (Rusk 67), O'Brien, Doyle; Gorman (Clancy 85).
Bray Wdrs: McGuinness; McGill, Cooney, Webster, Barker; Jake Kelly, Zambra, Graham Kelly; Hanlon (Swan 89); Cassidy (Hughes 76), Akinade.
Ref - Padraigh Sutton (Clare).