Rovers had to settle for a point in Lissywollen as Karl Sheppard's opener in the 57th minute was cancelled out by a fine strike by Ian Sweeney. The Hoops dominated the proceedings but paid the price for not pushing home their advantage following the first goal.
Pat Fenlon started with Stephen McPhail in midfield and Karl Sheppard up front and the game started slowly with the home side content to sit back and try to break up the play with some robust challenges. Rovers passing was off key and although Simon Madden was pushed up on the right wing he was unable to deliver the ball needed to get through the compact Athlone defence.
Ryan Brennan's wayward pass almost sent Athlone's Philip Gorman in on goal on 20 minutes but two minutes later Ronan Finn took possession and sent Karl Sheppard away down the centre but he couldn't pick out Gary McCabe's run into the box. On 27 minutes a fine ball from Robert Bayly found Madden on the right and his first time cross saw Sheppard get his head to the ball but 'keeper Coulter saved his effort.
On the half hour Stephen McPhail picked out Madden and he crossed for Gary McCabe at the near post but his header hit the side-netting. A minute later Karl Sheppard's weak shot from Bayly's pass didn't trouble Coulter. On 35 minutes Ryan Brennan almost picked out Karl Sheppard in front of goal with a cross from the left.
The home side's only real chance of the half came on 40 minutes with Sean Brennan's cross blocked at the near post by David O'Connor and the resultant corner was headed just over by the same player. Right on the whistle Gary McCabe's corner went across the goalmouth and was deflected on goal but a combination of 'keeper and defender cleared the danger.
Rovers started the second-half playing at a faster tempo and had the home side pegged back with David O'Connor crossing for Sheppard to head just wide of the target. Robert Bayly then sent Simon Madden into the box but he took an extra touch that allowed a defender to clear the ball. On 56 minutes Sheppard was released into the box down the left and he knocked the ball past 'keeper Coulter to cross low for McCabe to shoot on goal but his effort was blocked.
[GOAL 0:1 - 57th min.] Rovers finally broke the deadlock when David O'Connor's fine cross was met by a fantastic Karl Sheppard header at the near post that hit the back of the net.
On 63 minutes a break from defence by David O'Connor saw McCabe pick up the ball and feed Sheppard and the Hoops number nine turned to shoot on goal from 20 yards but his shot went just wide. Rovers however failed to really put the Athlone defence under pressure and get the second goal and gradually the home side got back into the game. Gorman almost got the better of Conor Kenna on the left-hand side of the box but the Hoops Captain got back to snuff out the danger.
On 72 minutes David O'Connor did well to cross from the left and Sean O'Connor headed across goal but substitute Dean Kelly couldn't get a shot on goal.
[GOAL 1:1 - 79' min.] The Hoops were punished when Ian Sweeney controlled the ball and skipped past a Jason McGuinness challenge before shooting from 20 yards past Murphy and into the right-hand corner of the net.
The Hoops tried to react and David O'Connor's long throw-in on 82 minutes saw Sheppard head the ball down for Dean Kelly to volley the ball on goal but Coulter was alert to dive to his right to beat the ball away. That was as good as it got for Rovers and the home side claimed a vital point.