Athlone Town claim merited Midlands ‘El Clasico’ league victory


Athlone Town emerged from Bishopsgate on Saturday evening last with a merited local derby victory, a spirited away day performance claiming the points against Longford Town.

Athlone Town lead at the half time break thanks to another goal from top scorer Thomas Oluwa. The lead was doubled just after the hour mark from an own goal but Longford reduced the deficit with 20 minutes remaining. Some brilliant goalkeeping kept the visitors ahead and victory was sealed deep into stoppage time with a third goal from Adam Lennon.

The visitors started on a positive note with Lennon having a shot saved while also firing over from the right. A first corner kick followed but Longford’s first chance after six minutes saw Vladislav Velikin push away a Christian Magerusan header.

The visitors had the better chances thereafter. Oluwa set up Gary Armstrong but the shot was straight at Luke Dennison. Armstrong had another good chance on 34 minutes but the Longford keeper again made a comfortable save.

Velikin was also in top form and made another fine stop to deny Matthew O’Brien. Athlone proceeded to dominate the game up to the half time break as Aaron McBride directed a glancing header just wide while Lennon was also off target.

The deadlock was finally broken on 43 minutes. Aaron Connolly was fouled inside the home half. Lennon sent in the resulting free kick from the left and, after Longford had failed to clear, Oluwa found the net with a spectacular overhead kick.

Athlone still looked comfortable to beyond the hour mark but Longford could easily have scored from their first chance. A corner kick for the visitors was followed by Dennison denying Lennon.

The game was then to turn on two key moments in as many minutes. Dylan Barnett drilled a free kick off the Athlone bar on 64 minutes but the home team were again unhinged a minute later. Dennison and Michael Barker got their signals crossed and the latter’s header over the keeper saw an own goal double the Athlone advantage.

The concession seemed to spring the home team into life. Aaron Robinson was denied by Velikin while new signing from Galway Jordan Adeyemo then fired over.

The home team pressure paid off after 70 minutes when substitute Dean McMenamy deflected a shot to the net from close range to deny Athlone a first clean sheet. Longford were now in pursuit of an equaliser but Athlone were still dangerous as a corner kick together with an off-target Shane Barnes shot showed.

Ben Lynch seemed to have ended the home challenge when he fired across the box from the left. Five additional minutes though gave Longford more time to press forward, but Velikin ensured Athlone would not concede again when he got down to push behind a long-range strike from Robinson.

Athlone further punished Gary Cronin’s men on the counter attack in the fourth additional minute. Lennon raced clear and showed a cool head to steer the ball to the net past the keeper.

Longford’s long unbeaten run against their Midland rivals which stretched back nearly ten years was finally shattered as Athlone celebrated a first away win in 2022.


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