By Dave Donnelly
League of Ireland First Division – UCD 6 – Athlone Town 2
UCD were denied an opening-day win over Athlone Town with the last kick of the game as Adam Wixted capped his debut with an equaliser at the death.
The former Drogheda United man latched onto a nod-down from Kurtis Byrne, rounded Lorcan Healy and squeezed his shot in from the tightest of angles to earn a share of the spoils.
It was no more than Athlone deserved having drawn goalkeeper Lorcan Healy into a string of fine saves in either half only to be undone by UCD’s clinical finishing at the other end.
The Students led twice through Mark Dignam and Dara Keane, either side of a Stephen Meaney equaliser, but UCD manager Andy Myler admitted a draw was a fair result.
“It was a bit of a disappointing end – the nature of the goal and it being literally the last kick of the game was disappointed,” Myler told Extratime.ie.
“I don’t think it was a disappointing result – I think a draw was a fair result in the game overall. Athlone probably feel like they deserve it and they’re probably right.
“We struggled in the first half with a bit of rhythm and the game was a bit frantic. We never really got the ball down. In the first game, you’re never really going to be at your most fluid.
“It was a bit better after half time and we got on top of the game again. Slightly disappointed overall, and not at our most fluid, but we’ll take the point and we’ll move on.”
The Students were fortunate not to trail within 20 seconds as James Doona was played into space on the left and he crossed for Meaney, whose shot from close range was well-saved by Healy.
UCD took the lead halfway through the first period as Liam Kerrigan’s long-range rattled the bar and Dignam was quickest to slot home the loose ball.
Athlone drew level seven minutes before the break, however, as Aidan Friel’s cross was flicked on by Meaney and looped over the helpless Healy into the corner of the net.
The home side had a succession of half-chances in the second half, Evan Weir going closest with a wickedly-struck free kick that just cleared the bar.
They took the lead again midway through the second half as Dignam played a lovely through-ball for substitute Keane and he slotted the ball coolly past Micheal Schlingermann.
It wasn’t to be enough, however, as Wixted showed the smarts that brought him a league title with Drogheda last year but finishing from an acute angle.
UCD travel to Cobh Ramblers, who lost to Cork City in their opening game at Turner’s Cross, and Myler expects they will offer just as stern a test on their home patch.
“I think we’ll play better as we go. We’ll certainly play better than we did tonight, so I’m just looking forward to the next few games.
“No game in the league is easy. Cobh will be a little bit stronger, like everybody else on last year, and the whole division seems to have strengthened.
“It’s never an easy game at any stage of the season down in Cobh and they’ll be looking to get up and running now so we’ll prepare as best we can and see where that takes us.”