Match Report by Tony Ghee
Longford Town moved up to second place in the First Division table just a point behind leaders Shelbourne, after a brace from Dean Byrne and a penalty from Sam Verdon earned Neale Fenn’s charges a three-one victory over Midland rivals Athlone Town at the City Calling Stadium.
The home side took the lead on the quarter-hour mark when Verdon was inexplicably shoved over by Athlone centre-half Ciaran Grogan. Verdon dusted himself down, and calmly despatched the penalty, sending keeper Aaron Myles the wrong way.
Longford’s lead was very short-lived as Athlone were back on level terms within two minutes as the home defence were caught napping. Longford failed to properly clear a left-wing cross from Kaleem Simon, allowing Aaron Brilly to slip the ball through to striker Dean Williams and he poked home the equaliser.
Longford regained the lead on thirty-one minutes when Dean Zambra’s corner resulted in Kealan Dillon’s poor headed clearance being put back into the Athlone box by Paul O’Connor and Byrne brilliantly finished to the Athlone net.
The ‘Red & Black’ almost scored a third on thirty-eight minutes but Anto Breslin’s twenty-five yard free-kick struck the Athlone crossbar.
Longford Town started the second-half in whirlwind fashion and were again denied by the woodwork just four minutes after the resumption. Verdon’s exquisite curling shot from just outside the box on the left came back-off the far post and was gathered at the second attempt by Athlone keeper Myles despite being under pressure from O’Connor.
Dean Byrne grabbed his second of the contest and Longford’s third on fifty-three minutes when he created space for himself before rifling his shot to the Athlone net.
The home side created another good chance in the sixty-fifth minute. Aaron Dobbs released Byrne down the left, he skipped past Evan White, got to the end-line and whipped in a cross that was headed narrowly wide by Verdon.
Byrne was denied his hat-trick on seventy-seven minutes when he weaved his way into the Athlone box from the left only for his effort to be saved by Athlone stopper Myles.
Longford Town: Steacy, Elworthy, McDonnell, Kenna, Breslin, Zambra, Verdon, Dervin, O’Conor, Byrne, Dobbs.
Substitutions: Chambers for Verdon & Hollywood for Zambra (both 72 minutes)
Athlone Town: Myles, White, Buckley, Grogan, Casey, Kearney, Hogan, Brilly, Dillon, Simon, Williams.
Substitutions: Stokes for Hogan (63 minutes), Lotefa for Dillon (76 minutes)
Referee: Garvin Taggert
PICTURES BY TIERNAN DOLAN