Brilly strikes as Midlands derby ends all square

A 20th minute goal from former Longford player Aaron Brilly gave Athlone Town an early lead in the Midlands derby. Photo: Ashley Cahill/AC Sports Images

A 20th minute goal from former Longford player Aaron Brilly gave Athlone Town an early lead in the Midlands derby. Photo: Ashley Cahill/AC Sports Images

Aaron Brilly's first ever senior goal secured a point for Athlone Town in the second Midlands derby of the season against Longford Town in Lissywollen last Friday night (25 May ).

The midfielder scored against his former club after 21 minutes to leave Athlone in front at half time. Longford equalised just after the hour mark, but Neale Fenns men were subsequently unable to claim all three points. The visitor’s frustration boiled over in the closing stages when Chris Mulhall was dismissed, having earlier grabbed the equaliser in a goalmouth scramble.

Having already beaten Athlone this season, Longford were expected to keep their push for promotion going with another win. The visitors were first on the attack and earned the opening corner kick after just four minutes of play. Ollie Hamzat had the first home chance, but goalkeeper Jack Brady reacted well to avert the danger.

A further corner followed for Longford, but they were rocked when Athlone took a shock lead. A foul handed the hosts a free kick midway inside the Longford half. Captain Steven Grogan, instead of delivering the free into the penalty area, cleverly played the ball to his right to Brilly in a well worked routine. The finish was superb, across the keeper and into the far corner from the edge of the six yard box.

Fenn's men responded through Dylan McGlade, whose shot was gathered at the second attempt by young keeper, Darcy Lawless. Longford earned two more corners and were then denied by the woodwork. An Evan Galvin strike was blocked by Lawless, but Dean Byrne looked set to hit the loose ball home. The upright denied Longford the equaliser, as the ball then bounced back into play and was cleared to safety. Brian Cabraley had a further home chance, with Hamzat also ending the half on a bright note for Terry Butler's charges.

Action resumed with Galvin firing wide inside the first minute, but Athlone should have doubled their lead moments later. Cabraley set up Shane Stokes but, when well placed, his shot was blocked by the keeper.

Ger Smith headed over following a corner, but Longford gradually gained the upper hand as the half progressed. Daniel O’Reilly fired over, with Sam Verdon having a shot saved as the pressure mounted.

The equaliser finally came just after the hour mark when McGlade's corner was helped on by Verdon and O’Reilly, with Mulhall getting the final touch to force the ball home.

Brilly had a rare chance for Athlone, but Longford were by then well on top. Galvin's overhead kick went wide, while three further corners looked set to yield the inevitable winning goal for Longford. Athlone, though, held out and the visitor's cause was not helped when Mulhall was red carded after an altercation with Ryan Gaffey in the closing minutes. Galvin had the final strike, but was off target, as the Midlands derby ended at honours even.

Athlone next face two away trips in four days taking on Finn Harps and then Cabinteely.

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