A goal from the evergreen Mark Rutherford was enough to send Shelbourne back to the top of the eircom League of Ireland First Division on Sunday, but Dermot Keely's side will consider themselves somewhat fortunate to have escaped from Lissywollen with the three points.

Athlone and Shels may be at opposite ends of the table, but that gap was rarely evident during a game which the midlanders dominated for lengthy spells.

The match was played in dry but very blustery conditions.
Shelbourne had the benefit of the strong wind during the first 45 minutes, but it was Athlone who made brighter start and almost went in front after 12 minutes.

Town midfielder Davy Byrne's free-kick was met by the head of Jim
Sheridan. His effort had Shels keeper Dean Delaney beaten, but it
trickled just wide of the post.

Athlone threatened again after 24 minutes, when striker Dave O'Dowd's shot went just over the bar from the edge of the area.

However, Shelbourne then went in front with their first serious attack of the game after 33 minutes.

James Chambers's cross into the six-yard box created confusion between Athlone goalie Ciaran Kelly and defender Robbie Hamm, as neither appeared sure who was going to deal with it.

Attempting to clear, Hamm headed the ball against his own post and Rutherford pounced to knock home the rebound home from close range.

Athlone very nearly equalised in the 52nd minute, when Sheridan got his head to Ian Coffey's corner kick, only to see his effort rebound off the underside of the crossbar.

Four minutes later, Anthony Flood had a great chance to double the Dubliners' advantage, but he scooped his shot over the bar after being played through on goal by Mark O'Brien.

Town continued to have the better of the play in the closing stages.

With ten minutes remaining, the wind caught hold of Coffey's corner and Shelbourne Delaney had to touch it onto the bar.

Moments later, Sheridan attacked another Athlone corner-kick but had his effort cleared off the line by Shels defender Alan Murphy.

It clearly wasn't going to be Athlone's day.

Shelbourne are now two points clear of Dundalk at the top of the
table, while Athlone remain bottom.


Athlone Town: Ciaran Kelly, Robbie Hamm, Philip Reilly, Jim Sheridan, Nigel Keady, Colm Jinks, Carmine Russo (Niall Scullion, HT), Davy Byrne, Dave O'Dowd (Noel McGee, 68 mins), Anthony Hayes (Craig Tone, 83 mins), Ian Coffey.

Shelbourne: Dean Delaney, Alan Murphy, Robbie Hedderman, Alan Keely, Damien Brennan, Greg O'Halloran, James Chambers, Mark O'Brien, Anthony Flood, David Freeman, Mark Rutherford.

Referee: G Kelly.