Match Report by Tony Ghee
Longford Town had to settle for a share of the spoils at the Athlone Town Stadium in the second El Classico of the season between the two Midlands rivals as the ‘Red & Black’ came from behind to snatch a draw but ended the contest with ten players as Mulhall was sent-off late on. It was a disappointing result for Neale Fenn’s charges as Athlone secured only their second point of the season and a Longford win was expected.
A repeat of the earlier five-one victory for Longford was always going to be highly unlikely as the Athlone defence have tightened up at the back since Terry Butler took over the helm and that was certainly the case in this match.
The first twenty minutes of the contest failed to produce any chances worthy of the name. The visitors played the better football but quality final balls were often the missing link for Longford as the Athlone keeper Lawless was not even tested once. At the other end, the Town defence were rarely tested as they comfortably dealt with the home side’s long ball game.
The best opportunity in that poor opening twenty minute period fell to the home side, as Hamzat muscled Dervin off the ball and raced in on goal from the right, but as he was about to pull the trigger, Noack-Hofmann crucially made a goal saving tackle.
The game burst into life on twenty-one minutes when Athlone took the lead with a brilliantly worked goal. Athlone won a free-kick and Grogan shaped to play the ball over the Town wall, but then suddenly played a clever low ball towards the right side of the box into the path of Brilly whose intelligent diagonal run from the right wing caught the Longford defence napping, and the former Longford player kept his composure to drill a low diagonal Shot into the bottom left corner of the Longford net.
The visitors responded with three opportunities in the remainder of the first half. In the twenty-fifth minute, a perfectly weighted pass from Dervin set-up McGlade but his shot was straight at Athlone keeper Lawless.
On thirty-four minutes, Galvin was thwarted by home keeper Lawless who raced off his line to make a fine save from the Longford winger’s sixteen yard effort, however, Galvin retrieved the ball and his chipped cross picked out striker Byrne, but Byrne’s shot came back off the Athlone post.
Four minutes before the interval, Mulhall headed an Elworthy cross wide of the Athlone goal, but Brilly’s goal gave Athlone a one-nil interval lead.
Athlone almost scored a second goal within two minutes of the resumption as Cabraley set-up striker Stokes only for Longford keeper Brady to produce a sharp save.
Longford’s first opportunity of the second-half arrived in the fifty-eighth minute. Elworthy and O’Reilly combined to snuff out an Athlone attack and O’Reilly launched a long clearance out of defence that Mulhall headed on into the path of Verdon, he shrugged off one Athlone defender but his shot was saved by Lawless.
Longford equalised just after the hour mark. McGlade’s corner was headed on by Verdon to O’Reilly on the right-edge of the Athlone six-yard box and his header back across goal was finished by Mulhall from virtually on the line.
A spectacular overhead kick from Galvin on sixty-six minutes whistled narrowly over the Athlone bar and although Longford pressed for the winner, they could not find a winner.
The Town had striker Mulhall dismissed in the eighty-seventh minute for an off the ball incident after Mulhall and Athlone substitute Gaffey became entangled, although the collision seemed accidental.
Next up for Longford Town is a home game against Galway next Friday night at the City Calling Stadium.
Athlone Town: Lawless, Raftery, Smith, Nyakambili, Fletcher, Hamzat, O’Leary, Grogan, Brilly, Cabraley, Stokes.
Substitute: Kavanagh for Stokes (63 minutes), Gaffey for Hamzat (70 minutes), McCullough for Cabraley (81 minutes).
Longford Town: Brady, Elworthy, McDonnell, O’Reilly, Noack-Hofmann, Galvin, Verdon, Dervin, McGlade, Mulhall, Byrne.
Substitutes: Zambra for Byrne (55 minutes), Ryan for Dervin (81 minutes), Meenan for Hofmann (89 minutes).
Referee: Garvan Taggert.