Tristan Noack-Hofmann pictured in action for Longford Town against Sligo Rovers in the FAI Cup first round clash at City Calling Stadium on Saturday night last. Photo: Syl Healy
This Saturday night sees the final local derby of the 2017 season in the First Division when Longford Town manager Neale Fenn comes up against one of the best characters in the game, Roddy Collins, the current boss of Athlone Town.
The eagerly awaited game at City Calling Stadium kicks-off at 7.30pm and a big attendance is expected, particularly in the aftermath of Longford’s wonderful win over Premier Division side Sligo Rovers in the first round of the FAI Cup last weekend.
Athlone travelled to County Cork to play Munster Senior League side Ballincollig and came away with a fantastic 5-0 victory. That result will be a great boost for Roddy Collins who is trying to put his mark on the team in his second stint with the club.
The Athlone starting eleven in the FAI Cup included former Longford players Ethan Nkololo, Enda Curran and Stephen Walsh and the trio will be determined to make a big impact against their old club.
Longford’s surprise victory over Sligo Rovers was a great boost for all concerned and manager Fenn raised a few eyebrows when leaving the experienced Don Cowan on the bench along with Kealan Dillon and Cody Mulhall.
Jack Brady started in goals and he really had a superb game while new signing Peter Hopkins featured on the right wing and his fine performance certainly pleased the home supporters as he caused many problems for the Sligo defence.
Striker David O’Sullivan was back in the team after a lengthy injury absence and he posed the usual threat. Sam Verdon scored a late equaliser in the 83rd minute as the match ended in a 2-2 draw at the end of normal time but the Town took over in extra-time to clinch a famous victory with goals from Peter Hopkins and Kealan Dillon.
The Town had to play without captain Kevin O’Connor due to injury but Dean Zambra made his presence felt in midfield alongside Verdon.
The return to the team of Noel Haverty after injury and Daniel O’Reilly following suspension made a huge difference in the defence.
It is now up to the squad to pick up as many points as possible in the league before the end of the season and prepare for next season.
Next Saturday’s game against Athlone will be the fifth occasion that the midland rivals have clashed this season, including the meeting in the EA Sports Cup.
The record is good against the near neighbours with the first three fixtures ending in victory for Longford Town and all ironically featured hat-tricks, two from David O’Sullivan with Enda Curran repeating this fine achievement.
The most recent game between the clubs was at Lissywollen back at the end of June and the Town had to endure a tough battle, leaving it late to snatch a draw with the equaliser in the 88th minute.
The Athlone team that played on that occasion will show quite a few changes on Saturday night while the Longford side will have at least four changes. The Town have slipped down to sixth in the table and they will be hoping for a victory to improve their position.
SSE Airtricity League First Division
Longford Town v Athlone Town
at City Calling Stadium
Saturday 19 August, kick-off 7.30pm