Longford Town and Athlone Town draw in El Clasico

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 Chris 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.

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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 Aodh Dervin off the ball and raced in on goal from
the right, but as he was about to pull the trigger, Tristan 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 Dylan 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. Shane Elworthy and Daniel 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.

Report compiled by Tony Ghee