Athlone host near neighbours and fierce local rivals Longford Town in the opening El Clasico of the Midlands on Friday evening at the Athlone Town Stadium. (Kick-Off is at 7.45pm)
Athlone will be hoping to secure their first Clasico win since 2013 having gone on a rotten run of eleven winless games against their rivals up the N55.
2018 was a year to forget at Lissywoolen for the famous old club from Co. Westmeath with no wins registered on the pitch and three draws against Finn Harps, Longford Town and Shelbourne.
Athlone’s tally of six points was their lowest ever points return in their League of Ireland history as neither Aaron Callaghan or Terry Butler could secure any sort of a competitive win on the pitch throughout the season.
However, times are changing at Athlone and a new year has brought new optimism to the club. They have already won more points than they did during the whole of last season as experience and new-found quality has emerged at the Lissywoolen venue.
Darren Meenan and Kealan Dillon, both once of Longford Town have impressed as has Dean Williams, the Shamrock Rovers loanee who has joined the Blue and Black half of the Midlands on loan from the Hoops.
Athlone have not released any team news for Friday’s derby clash, however, it was revealed during this week’s Between the Stripes LOI Podcast that striker Gareth McCaffrey has left the club due to work commitments.
Hoping to secure their twelfth unbeaten result against their fierce Co. Westmeath opposition, Neale Fenn will be looking to mastermind another derby day success for Longford Town when they face Athlone on Friday evening.
Longford have enjoyed a solid start to the 2019 campaign with a defensive steel evident throughout many of their early season performances.
Conor Kenna, arriving from Bray Wanderers has shored up the defence while the heroics of Lee Steacey cannot be understated one bit.
Two points away to Limerick and Cabinteely, coupled with a win at home to Drogheda United has left Longford in fifth, although they have played a game less than many of their First Division rivals after last week’s postponement.
Speaking with the club’s website ahead of this keenly anticipated derby showdown, Kenna is looking forward to what will be his first encounter with this novel encounter.
“I’m really looking forward to it.” The former Premier Division league title winner said.
“I’ll be looking to use my experience on Friday.
“To be honest I’m just looking forward to getting back out there on the pitch. We didn’t play last weekend, so I just want to get back out there and get another game under my belt. Hopefully we can get a good result and start a good run on our push for promotion.”
In terms of team news for Longford, Carlton Ubaezuonu is the only absentee with a groin issue.
Referee: Neil Doyle.
Athlone Town have already exceeded their points total from the 2018 campaign during the opening four games of the 2019 season with nine points out of a possible twelve. Terry Butler’s side only picked up a mere six points last term.
Longford are uneaten in their last eleven games versus their midland’s rivals. Athlone’s last win in the El Clasico of the Midlands came back in 2013.
Longford have only conceded one goal since the start of the season. This is De Town’s best defensive start to the season since 2014 where they racked up four clean sheets during the opening few weeks of the season. Only Shelbourne broke through the Longford rearguard during that instance.
Athlone Town 12/5; Draw 21/10; Longford Town 5/4.
Athlone Town 1-2 Longford Town
Injured: Carlton Ubaezuonu.