Square United sit just one point and one place off the foot of the NEFL O’Neill’s Sportswear Division One table tonight – after another chastening defeat on home soil saw Athboy Celtic run out 3-1 winners at the Boys School Field.
Derek Minogue scored a late consolation as the home side rallied briefly towards the end but in truth, it was all too little too late. It was only after going three goals down that they started to play.
Substitutes Jamie McKenny and Brian Corcoran helped to provide a spark late on and player-coach Mark Rooney, who played the last 25 minutes, on occasion helped the Square forward players to show what they could do when they were afforded good service to work with.
These positives though don’t bring points. Only Trim Town separate Square from the bottom of the division, and the Meath men – who weren’t in action this weekend – have two games in hand on their rivals from Ardee. The bottom two teams will be relegated come the season end, while the third from bottom side face a playoff.
Navigating their way from that bunch at the bottom is possible for Square but you have to wonder where the next points are coming from. Had they won today, Square would have leapfrogged Athboy in the table. Now, they trail them by five points.
The start was frenetic, but in the chaos, it was Athboy who hit the front eight minutes in. Slack defending from a short corner saw Richie Shields head in from Calum Ennis’ delivery.
The home side’s first chance of note came shortly after when Jonny Sheridan shot over after Chris Kelly kept Kian Moran’s corner alive. Minogue curled a free kick wide from a good position and he fired over when a free kick was knocked down shortly after the 30 minute mark.
Square’s best opportunity came when a one-two involving Sheridan and Minogue ended in the striker firing wide at the near post. Between their early goal and their second on the stroke of half time, Athboy didn’t overly trouble the Square goal – bar an stunning save from Lee Kilcoyne to deny Aaron Ryan. Darren Henry and Andy Rogers made crucial clearances too.
That was one of Kilcoyne’s last actions after he was substitued with suspected ligament damage. Evan Farrell replaced him. On the stroke of half time, Ennis received the ball on the left and he skipped past Lee Martin before curling a brilliant shot past the substitute.
The second half was better from Square generally, but United always looked susceptible to the breakaway as they chased the game. Emmett Farrell’s ball from the back was blocked by Ennis and he raced clear before cutting in on his left foot and firing a shot into the side netting.
On 65 minutes, it was 0-3. Darren Henry conceded possession and when Martin sliced his attempted clearance, it fell to Ryan who finished well. Richie Shields could have made it 0-4 when inexplicably scooped over the bar before Minogue headed in with 16 minutes remaining. Moran’s corner was helped on and Minogue’s header looped over Athboy stopper Paul Sheridan and in. He has proved a vital source of goals this season – but all too often they are mere consolations.
Jonny Sheridan’s late free kick went over the bar and in fairness to Square, they kept going right until the end. That goal gave them a glimmer of hope. They will need to make the very most of these glimmers in the coming weeks. They need to take their chances in what has become a desperate quest for points. Eight defeats in twelve league games – they have lost four on the spin now at an aggregate score of 4-14 – is relegation form.
SQUARE UNITED: Lee Kilcoyne (Evan Farrell, 38), Lee Martin (Mark Rooney, 66), Stefan Halpenny, Darren Henry, Emmett Farrell, Kian Moran (Cian Halpenny, 77), Jonny Sheridan, Andy Rogers, Chris Kelly (Brian Corcoran, 46), Andrew Egan (Jamie McKenny, 71) Derek Minogue.