With only one round of First Division matches played there isn’t much to work with in the way of established form and what there is must, in the case of Cobh, must come with a caveat.
The Cork side lost their opening fixture, away to Drogheda United, 4-0 but the team’s preparations were severely hampered by a malfunctioning bus and an unsympathetic referee who allowed the team only ten minutes warm-up time after their late arrival.
Add to that star striker Cian Leonard’s 36th minute red card and it’s hardly surprising that Drogheda ran out comfortable winners.
On paper, Cobh have added some quality to their 2018 squad with Ian Turner arriving from St Patrick’s Athletic and Jack Lynch coming in from Waterford. Shane O’Connor is also building his match fitness having re-joined the club last July.
In the medium term Cobh have a decent chance of building a competitive season in an ultra-competitive division but the immediate challenge of Athlone Town may prove tricky.
Cian Leonard is suspended for Saturday night’s game and fellow striker Nathan West is ruled out with a shoulder injury picked up in the pre-season friendly defeat to Limerick, leaving manager, Stephen Henderson, short of goal-scorers.
Bryan Murphy and Eoin O’Donovan are both doubtful with hamstring problems while full back Kevin Taylor has a 50% chance of being passed fit to play.
After last weekend’s debacle in Drogheda, Cobh could really do with a morale boosting performance on Saturday but in Athlone Town they face opponents who are enjoying their most positive start to a season in years. For the Rams, there may be trouble ahead.
For several years now Athlone Town have been weighed down by serious problems both on and off the pitch. Pre-season predictions tend to begin by placing Athlone at the bottom of the First Division and working from there.
But this year manager Terry Butler appears to have been given a functioning budget and he hasn’t wasted it. Significant arrivals include Dean Casey (Bohemians), Lloyd Buckley (Drogheda), Kaleem Simon (Cabinteely) and Darren Meenan (Longford), while young striker Dean Williams has come in on-loan from Shamrock Rovers.
The fruits of Butler’s recruitment were seen in a Leinster Senior Cup win away to League champions Dundalk two weeks ago, while the club’s league opener against Wexford last weekend provided a first league win since they beat Cobh Ramblers way back in May of 2017.
The turnaround has been extraordinary and if the Midlanders beat Cobh on Saturday it will be one day short of two years since they last achieved an away win in the league.
Referee: Gavin Colfer
The last time Athlone Town won away in the league was when they defeated Wexford at Ferrycarrig Park on 3 March 2017… one day shy of two years ago.
Before last week’s win, the last time Athlone Town had won in the league was on 5th of May 2017… against Cobh Ramblers at Lisseywoolen.
Athlone’s top scorer last season was Nika Kalandarashvili with two.
Cobh 5/6, Draw 12/5, Athlone 13/5.
Cobh Ramblers 1-2 Athlone Town
Injured: Nathan West.
Doubtful: Eoin O’Donovan, Bryan Murphy, Kevin Taylor.
Suspended: Cian Leonard.