I had been staying with JJ and his good lady in beautiful Co. Mayo for a few days before setting off in good time for the pre-match gathering in the Bounty Bar in Athlone. Paul Finney had flown over to Dublin earlier in the day and had been picked up by Eamonn Kenny. Also in attendance were Pat and Tom, Martin Botwright, Tony Ryan, Qprmeath, Amanda, whose dad used to run the Cowshed in Ladbroke Grove, and many others.
A signed shirt was kindly donated by Eamonn after Lisa Hillman had managed to get many of the players to sign it the previous day at Carton House. I didn’t know that John22 was in the vicinity until his name was announced as the winner. Apparently he had only arrived 5 minutes before the draw took place!!! Michael Seery and Lisa organised the meet-up and BBQ. Well done everyone.
We collected our tickets from Noel (Qprmeath) and then took the short journey to the ground and parked up close-by.
Rangers had previously played Athlone on 16th August 1981 at Mel’s Park and won the game 4-3 with goals from Simon Stainrod (3) and Mike Flanagan (1). They moved to their present ground in 2007.
Rangers lined up in white shirts, black shorts and black socks, as follows: Murphy, Simpson, Caulker, Onuoha, Hill, Wright-Phillips (Faurlin), Barton, Henry, Hoilett, Zamora, Austin.
Subs Not Used: Lumley, Dunne.
In the opening five minutes, a good move involving Junior Hoilett and Shaun Wright-Phillips resulted in the latter shooting just over the crossbar. Soon after, Charlie Austin was put through into the box but his effort ended up well wide.
It was no surprise when Rangers took the lead in the 13th minute through Bobby Zamora from around 12 yards. Then, a good ball from Shaun Wright-Phillips found Junior Hoilett, but the chance was lost when he put it wide. At the other end, Athlone got the ball into the net, but it was ruled offside. A couple of minutes later, a long-range effort from the home side sailed just wide.
The next good opportunity fell to Bobby Zamora after the ball was cut back from the right, but he proceeded to blast wide.
Charlie Austin was fouled outside the box and Joey Barton stepped up to take the free kick which resulted in Ryan Coulter palming the ball out for a corner. This then led to Steven Caulker heading the ball adrift.
Rangers almost doubled their lead before the break when a good ball fed Zamora and Coulter was forced down to make the save. Half-time: Athlone Town 0 – QPR 1.
Into the second-half and the R’s continued where they had left off. Bobby Zamora’s shot was initially blocked and Junior Hoilett’s follow-up was well saved by Ryan Coulter. Rangers’ second goal came following an excellent move which concluded with Bobby Zamora assisting hot-shot Charlie Austin who smashed the ball into the bottom corner.
Austin then had two further chances to increase his goal tally. Firstly, when the keeper made a comfortable save after he had headed the ball straight at him from a Danny Simpson cross and then when another header was cleared off the line by Alan Byrne.
Ale Faurlin looked very comfortable when he came on in the 64th minute to replace Shaun Wright-Phillips. Surprisingly though, Rangers only named three subs, which included goalkeeper Joe Lumley, and Ale Faurlin was the only one used?
The rain had intensified and Jimmy and I took refuge at the back of the stand for the remainder of the game.
The attendance was given as approx. 2,800 which included the British Ambassador, the local mayor and a good contingent of R’s fans.
(The above pics were taken by John22 and used with permission)