Finn Harps -v- Athlone TownSat, Sep 08 2012
Peter Hutton will find that his injury and suspension issues are starting to clear up as his side attempt to extend an eight match unbeaten run against Athlone Town at Finn Park on Saturday night.
Thomas McBride, Aaron O’Hagan and Kevin McHugh all return from suspension, though Gary Merritt and Michael Funston are both injury doubts for the game. McHugh had scored four in five games prior to his suspension and will be a welcome addition to Hutton’s match squad, though fellow striker Paul McVeigh has been on a decent run himself, notching goals in Harps’ last two games and bagging four in the last eight games.
Last weekend McVeigh put Harps ahead against Mervue, only for Cian McBrien to equalise in the second half to deny Harps the three points. “There wasn’t very much football played”, said Hutton. “They were very hard to play against, playing five in midfield and crowding out an already very tight and congested pitch. We had a couple of chances near the end where we could’ve stolen it but we just sort of snatched at the shots.”
And in the buil-up to this weekend’s tie Hutton acknowledged that the effect of having a new boss in the dug-out may benefit the visitors.
“They had a good result last week against Longford and it will be no surprise to see their players trying to impress Padraig Moran. They have a good work ethic and athleticism; so you’ll not get anything off them unless you match their work rate. But the onus is on us as the home team to take the game to them.
Padraig Moran presided over a 1-1 draw against Longford Town last weekend, his first game in charge of the club following the departure of former boss Mike Kerley.
Nor does Moran have any injuries to hinder his second outing in the Athlone hot-seat, though he will have to manage without midfielder Sean Skelly who will be absent through suspension.
However the Athlone squad has lost three of it’s members with Paul Danaher, Sean Guerins and Mark Walshe leaving the club. On the up-side, both Garvan Broughall and Stephen Relihan have returned from the US. Other players coming back into the reckoning are defender Stephen last, who has recovered from injury, and Niall Scullion and Joe Woods who were both suspended for Moran’s bow against Longford.
Should Athlone repeat their 2-1 win at Finn Park earlier in the season it would represent a first win in eight games. Since their 2-0 win over bottom club SD Galway Athlone have lost three and drawn four, a run which has seen them score only two goals.
With regards to the league table, Athlone are tied in mid-table with Harps on 29 points and trail by a single goal of goal-difference. A draw, therefore, would maintain the status quo (unless Wexford won and leap-frogged both of them). Athlone need a win if they are to rise above their hosts to fourth place.
Referee: Adriano Reale.
Athlone have enjoyed playing Finn Harps so far this season, with two wins and a draw from their three previous league games.
Finn Harps haven’t lost in the league since they went down 3-0 to Limerick at Jackman Park on June 29th. That’s eight games unbeaten for Peter Hutton’s side.
Athlone Town haven’t won since they defeated SD Galway 2-0 at Lisseywoollen, also on 29th June, which adds up to seven games without their tasting the thrill of victory. “Smell that, son? That’s napalm. I love the smell of napalm in the morning...”
Harps Ev; Draw 9/4; Athlone 12/5.
Harps have enough to maintain their unbeaten run; 1-0 to the home side.
Harps Injury News: Michael Funston, Gary Merritt (both doubtful).
Harps Suspension News: None.
Athlone Injury News: None.
Athlone Suspension News: Sean Skelly.
Simon O'Gorman began reporting for Extratime in 2010. He remembers Milltown and Flower Lodge and, back in the mists of time, saw Diego Maradona play at Lansdowne Road. He now lives in Co Kildare and reports on Shamrock Rovers among others. Simon can be contacted at email@example.com