Athlone Town stopped Longford Town from making it three wins out of three in the third Midlands ‘El Clasico’ of the season when they came from behind to claim a point.
It was a drab and dour first half and chances were definitely at a premium. For a local derby neither side seemed to be up for the game and the football on show was dire.
Former Athlone striker Austin Skelly had the first shot on goal in the 10th minute but his effort went wide.
In the 20th minute Jacques Morley broke down the wing, he got inside the box but his low cross was cut out by an Athlone defender. In the 32nd minute Conor Kavanagh had a shot for Athlone but Longford keeper Paul Hunt got down to it.
That was literally all that happened as both sides insisted in hoofing the ball down the field. Both goalkeepers hadn’t to make any saves of note and it really was a poor spectacle for supporters who came out on a wet, cold and miserable evening for the game.
Five minutes before the break a moment of brilliance saw the deadlock broken. Athlone keeper Michael Schlingermann came out of goal to try and clear a long ball but unfortunately he lost his footing and the ball fell nicely to Lee Roche who from about 35 yards found the back of the net with a beautiful goal.
One minute after the restart Athlone’s Dave Ryan had a chance but his effort just went wide. Longford defender Des Hope had a chance in the 54th minute but he ballooned his effort over the bar; if he had kept his shot down it would’ve definitely hit the target.
Seven minutes later Roche should have doubled Longford’s advantage; Keith Gillespie played the ball into him and he bore down on goals but Schlingermann did well to deny him getting his second goal of the game.
But that was all Longford had to offer and instead of trying to get that important second goal they went into defensive mode and this basically invited Athlone on to them. It was frustrating to watch and the players didn’t play with the same intensity as they had in the first.
Athlone began to come into the game more and with Ryan looking threatening for them they went in search of an equaliser. And in the 74th minute they were back on level terms. Paul Hunt made a great save with his feet to deny substitute Mark Sherlock but unfortunately for him the ball wasn’t cleared by the Longford defence, it fell to Noel McGee and he made no mistake. It was no more. They never gave up trying and unlike Longford they seemed to want it more in the second half.
Both substitute Dan O’Reilly and Lee Roche really should have done better with the chances that fell their way and they were definitely missed opportunities for Longford.
For Athlone that equaliser spurred them on and they piled on the pressure as they went looking for the winner. A combination of Hunt’s fingertips and the crossbar denied them six minutes from time when Stephen Relihan’s powerful header from Declan Fallon’s right-wing cross came crashing off the crossbar.
In the last few minutes Athlone had plenty of possession, the ball was in the Longford area and there were a few nervy moments but they couldn’t muster up any clear-cut chances.
This result was definitely a case of two points dropped for Longford Town. When you compare the first series of games and now the second, Longford Town have dropped five points this time around; losing to Meruve and drawing with Athlone – two games they had won in the first series.
After losing their last two league games Longford Town needed to get something out of this game and probably should have.
Athlone Town: Michael Schlingermann, Declan Fallon, Jamie Carr, Tommy Barrett, Mark Walshe, Conor Kavanagh, Dave Ryan, Wayne Colbert, Jason Hughes, Niall Scullion, Noel McGee.
Subs used: Kevin Dunne for Walshe 69mins, Mark Sherlock for Scullion 70 mins, Stephen Relihan for Kavanagh 76mins.
Longford Town: Paul Hunt, Graham Dowling, Des Hope, Chris Deans, Gary Cronin, Lee Roche, Keith Gillespie, Mark Salmon, Thomas Hyland, Jacques Morley, Austin Skelly.
Subs used: Dan O’Reilly for Lee Roche and Aidan Roche for Morley 76mins, Niall O’Reilly for Dowling 81.
Referee: John Grimes (Dublin).