Match Preview by Kieran Burke (@KieranBTS)
Rarely in the last few seasons has a Midlands derby between Longford Town and their Athlone rivals meant so much, but on Saturday night the stakes couldn’t be higher as only a win will keep Longford’s promotion hopes alive, following a disappointing recent run of form.
While last weekends 6-1 defeat away to promotion rivals Shelbourne was littered with controversial decisions and missed chances for ‘’De Town’’, Longford boss Neale Fenn will know results are the only thing that matter at this stage of the season and hard luck stories will he of no use at the City Calling Stadium on Saturday night.
With the clubs Family Fun Day running from 5.00pm, it is hoped there will be a swell in attendance for this crucial local derby as Longford look to cut the gap on the play-off places to just a single point (other results depending).
With a high profile FAI Cup tie away to Sligo Rovers next week, followed by another trip west to face Galway United in a potential promotion play-off six pointer, Fenn and his players are sure to be aware of the importance of building some much needed momentum with a win over the First Divisions bottom side on Saturday night.
In terms of team news, recently signed striker, Jamie Doyle will sit out the game known in these parts as the Midlands ‘’El Clasico’’ having seen red at his former club last Friday, while fellow front man Dean Byrne remains out through injury.
While there is no team news as of yet available for the visitors, Athlone Town have put in some much improved performances against some of the divisions top sides in recent weeks. Having been extremely unlucky not to claim a point against second placed Drogheda United a fortnight ago, the Blue and Black side of the Midlands divide ran UCD close last weekend, only losing out through a Gary O’Neill penalty for the league leaders.
Longford Town fans will of course need no reminder of the last meeting with Athlone Town as former Longford man, Aaron Brilly scored for the hosts, following a fine set-piece move, to earn his side a share of the spoils in what was seen as a huge slip up in the promotion race by Neale Fenn’s charges. That man Brilly is sure to be out to prove a point to his former employers once more and given his experience at this level with Cabinteely and Athlone Town, his threat must be taken seriously.
Kick-off at the City Calling Stadium on Saturday night is 7.30pm and referee Anthony Buttimer will take charge of this often fiery fixture.