Thomastown United’s perfect Premier Division record may be gone, but they grabbed a late leveller to prove their never-say-die spirit is still intact!
In this hotly-contested top of the table clash with Freebooters A, played at a cold and blustery Fair Green, an extremely late equaliser from substitute Marty Lawrence gave United a very important point as they continue their bid to win their first top flight title in more than 30 years.
Pushing for a way back into the game, the goal came after a long kick-out eventually found its way to the feet of Lawrence. Lurking on the edge of the box, his smashed effort was deflected off David Rice and zipped past a hapless Michael Lambert in the Freebooters goal.
The goal came after a long period of pressure from the visitors. On the balance of play, it was a richly deserved point for United.
The game, played out in front of a sizeable crowd, began at a frenetic pace, but despite the high tempo chances were few and far between early on.
’Booters looked dangerous on the break through Aaron Molloy on the right, while Andy Kavanagh and his midfield partner Dessie Walsh controlled things in the middle for Thomastown.
The first chance of the game came on 20 minutes and it fell to the ’Town. Steven Connolly picked the ball up on the right but his cross was headed out by ’Booters defender David Rice. The clearance fell to Dessie Walsh, but his well-struck volley was straight at Lambert in the ’Booters goal.
Spurred on by this sight, Thomastown dominated the rest of the half. If it wasn’t for the hard working ‘Booters defence the scoreline could have been much different.
They had another chance when Michael O’Neill swung in a dangerous corner on 35 minutes. The ball arrowed straight to C.J. Browne, who was unmarked at the back post, but he headed just wide when it seemed certain he would score.
United continued to press for an opener and two minutes later a cross in from O’Neill on the right found its way to Mark Delahunty. He threaded a lovely through ball into the feet of Connolly, but he blazed over from eight yards under good pressure from Niall McEvoy.
Chances were aplenty for the Town in the latter stages of the half, the best of them falling to the busy Michael O’Neill. A pass played into Connolly’s feet was laid off to the lively Kavanagh. He played an exquisite pass behind the ’Booters defence, the ball falling perfectly O’Neill, but he couldn’t control his strike and it sailed over the bar.
The teams went in level at half-time, despite Thomastown’s domination. Given the pressure they had survived, ’Booters would have been the much happier.
The balance of play changed immediately after the break. Less than a minute into the second half a miscued clearance saw the ball fall straight to ’Booters danger man Damien Raggett. He made no mistake with the finish, punishing United’s defence for their failure to get organised.
The city side had a great chance to double their lead two minutes later. Raggett, who was a real handful all game, broke into the box. He found Dessie Hayes at the back stick, but he couldn’t provide the finish.
Although ’Booters were on top early on in the second half, Thomastown had a good opportunity to level matters on 49 minutes. The lively Andy Kavanagh broke into the Freebooters box from the left and was brought down under a heavy challenge. It looked like a penalty would be given, but the referee waved play on.
That scare aside it was ’Booters who looked the more likely to alter the scoreline, especially with midfielder Paddy Cahill beginning to dictate the play.
On the hour mark the ball was played out wide to winger Aaron Molloy, who easily beat his man, but his shot was well saved by the feet of Paul Dunne.
Thomastown upped the pace and went close with a great chance on 75 minutes. Steven Connolly sprang the offside trap and controlled a ball over the top. His lofted cross found strike partner Nathan Sherry, who stretched to win the header, but he couldn’t keep it on target.
Thomastown continued to press from this point on, but struggled to create clear-cut chances as the ’Booters defence and keeper stood up to everything that was thrown at them.
Just when it looked like Freebooters had weathered the storm, Lawrence pounced for his late, late equaliser. It was the little bit of luck teams need if they are to go on and win titles.
Freebooters A: Michael Lambert, Jack Deegan, David Rice, Niall McEvoy, James Kelly, Paddy Cahill, Aaron Molloy, John Hayes (Jack Poyntz, 82 mins), Dessie Hayes, Damien Raggett (Jason Hennessy, 82 mins), Paul O’Brien.
Thomastown United A: Paul Dunne, Neil O’Mara (Marty Lawrence, 78 mins), Paul Dempsey, Davy Wemyss, C.J. Browne, Andy Kavanagh, Michael O’Neill, Dessie Walsh, Nathan Sherry, Steven Connolly, Mark Delahunty (David Prendergast, 85 mins).
Referee: Nicky Marnell.