Yet another rock bottom campaign for Athlone Town

Top of the table after two games, rock bottom 26 games later: that in a nutshell summed up a disastrous season on the field for Athlone Town in the Airtricity league First Division.

Off the field, the club was thrown into the international spotlight with allegations of match fixing and a betting coup.

The campaign had started so well for The Town as the 2016 season, which saw the team finish bottom, looked to be a distant memory. Colin Fortune, having replaced Alan Mathews, was confirmed as first team manager and quickly got down to assembling a squad. Further good news saw foreign investors come on board and suddenly Athlone looked set for a successful year.

Pre-season title favourites, Waterford FC were the visitors in the first game at the end of February. The odds were stacked in the Blues favour, but a late Colm Coss goal proved to be the winner for the hosts.

Another three points away to Wexford saw The Town top of the table, but the rot quickly set in thereafter as Fortune was surprisingly replaced as manager by Ricardo Monsanto. The Portuguese coach, though, endured a torrid spell in the hot seat and was gone by the middle of May.

His assistant, Ricardo Cravo, took temporary charge. Although successful in his only game, Cravo was back to second in command when Roddy Collins returned.

Early exits in both the EA Sports and Leinster Cups at the hands of Longford and Cabinteely respectively added to the gloom hanging over the club. The alleged betting scandal that emerged hardly aided matters.

Collins was no more successful than his immediate predecessors and Athlone failed to win another game in the league under his tutelage. His sole win came in the FAI Cup when non-league Ballincollig were dispatched. A heavy beating in the next round at Turners Cross quickly ended The Town’s interest in the competition.

Collins had taken up duty in Tolka Park for the visit to Shelbourne in May, but the losing start was the signal for what followed. A six - one home thrashing at the hands of champions elect Waterford before the mid-season break was one of the low points of a dismal season.

Athlone grabbed a share of the spoils in Wexford when the season resumed, but the Ferrycarrig Park outfit were eventually to overtake The Town as they recovered from a bad start. Another draw at home to Longford gave some hope, but two consecutive defeats nullified the previous result.

Another point was secured against Cabinteely, but an inconsistent season continued with its biggest defeat, a seven-one drubbing away to Midland rivals Longford in August.

A point at home to Wexford earlier in the month proved to be their last of the campaign as the slump towards bottom spot proved inevitable.

The season ended with five straight defeats as the defence leaked goals at an alarming rate. Twenty two were conceded and a four-nil defeat at home to UCD rounded off a season to forget.

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