Opening league fixture success for Athlone Town as new 2023 LOI season commences

LONGFORD TOWN 1 ATHLONE TOWN 3

Athlone Town started their League of Ireland First Division campaign in positive mode as they defeated Longford Town at Bishopsgate last Saturday night.

The visitors opened the scoring in the Midlands derby but Longford levelled just before half time. Two goals in a four-minute spell just after the hour mark had Athlone in control. The home team still had a chance of grabbing a point when the visitors were reduced to ten men following the goal celebration. A penalty kick late on gave Longford the chance of staging a grandstand finish but goalkeeper Enda Minogue denied Sam Verdon.

Athlone had the first chance of this local derby contest when Adam Lennon fired over. Longford earned two early corner kicks while Joshua Giurgi also shot wide. Jamar Campion-Hinds, one of three Athlone debutants, shot across goal from the left with Darragh Lynch off target at the other end. Longford then had a good opportunity to open the scoring but Victor Serdeniuks effort was gathered at the second attempt by Minogue.

Athlone opened the scoring on 27 minutes. Aaron Connolly played in Frantz Pierrot whose shot on the turn flew past the keeper. Longford responded with Lynch heading over while Ross Fay should have scored but his close-range header cleared the bar. The equaliser came four minutes from the break when Athlone were punished for failing to clear their lines and Lynch had time and space to fire a low shot to the net.

Longford came close to hitting the front five minutes after the restart but Minogue pulled off a brilliant save to palm behind a Verdon free kick. Athlone responded positively to go back in front just after the hour mark as a cross to the back post was met by Campion-Hinds whose looping header over the keeper found the net. A third goal soon followed for the visitors three minutes later when another cross picked out Pierrot this time, who side footed home from close range. The striker picked up a second yellow card for lifting his shirt and Athlone had to battle on with ten men.

In spite of this, the visitors might have further stretched their lead on 66 minutes but Connolly’s long-range attempt was pushed behind. The concession of a penalty by Athlone after 76 minutes offered the home team a chance to get closer. Jamil Ibrahim was fouled by Fuentes Rodriguez and Verdon stepped up to take the resulting spot kick, but Minogue got down to comfortably smother the ball. Home heads dropped as a result and they failed to trouble Athlone for the remainder of the half.

Four minutes of additional time was indicated and the only Longford chance during this period also fell to Verdon who headed wide. With their Midland rivals pushing forward, Athlone took advantage and should have stretched their lead in the fourth additional minute. Campion-Hinds broke clear on a counter attack to face Jack Brady but the keeper did well to block the shot as the final whistle soon sounded. It left Athlone sharing top spot with Waterford. Finn Harps provide the opposition this Saturday night as Athlone Town play their first home league game of the campaign.

 

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