Athlone Town’s last home game of the SSE Airtricity League First Division is scheduled for Friday evening, when Alan Mathews’ team host promotion-chasing Finn Harps at Lissywollen.
Despite an encouraging start it turned into a disappointing campaign for Athlone, who have won eight of their 26 matches so far. Harps, meanwhile, have a far better strike rate, posting 15 victories including four in their last five fixtures. That type of efficiency ensures Ollie Horgan’s charges have already guaranteed a playoff berth with critical battles against either UCD or Shelbourne imminent.
Having commenced the season as one of the favourites, Athlone encountered plenty of problems throughout the year. Mathews’ side have offered glimpses of their potential especially during last month’s success over Shelbourne. In that clash Athlone were primed for a battle as they surprised one of the teams who are still seeking to acquire top-flight status.
Athlone, though, have struggled for consistency, registering just two wins since June. Strangely, those triumphs arrived against champions Wexford Youths and Shels, which merely adds to the sense of frustration. Ultimately, this is a defining spell for the club, who will be working hard in the next few months in an effort to stitch a competitive side together ahead of next March.
Several youngsters have made an impact, while Daniel Purdy, Derek Doyle, and Philly Gorman are established performers domestically. With a trip to Stradbrook on Saturday week, October 17, and the closing fixture of the campaign against Cabinteely, Athlone will be eager to record two triumphs.