Trailing second from bottom Sligo Rovers by five points Athlone Town will be hoping to open their seasonal account at Thomond Park this evening when Mick Cooke’s side face Limerick FC.
Stuart Taylor’s Blues, who had posted a couple of encouraging draws, won their first SSE Airtricity League Premier Division match against Bohemians last Friday to edge six clear of Athlone, who need to pick up a positive result quickly. Athlone were plucky at the Brandywell, but Derry City still pocketed the spoils so the Midlanders will be seeking to summon an instant response in the south west. Then on Monday, Dundalk, who are currently top of the table, will be the visitors to Lissywollen for a 5pm kick-off as important matches arrive thick and fast for an Athlone outfit that is short on confidence.
An injection of hope is precisely what Limerick received when defeating the Gypsies and their boss Taylor is expecting a difficult assignment when Athlone visit the Treaty city. “We’ll go and build on the win no matter who we’re playing against. It’s important that we go and win the game,” Taylor said.
“It’s going to be difficult, because Mick Cooke always has his teams well organised. They’ll be dogged and they’ll work hard. We’ve got to make sure that we get the ball down and pass it. It will be difficult. We need to see how the pitch is. But we’re going to have to go and work really hard next Friday because it won’t be easy.”
Taylor is encouraged by the attitude and application his predominantly young group of players are showing. The victory over Bohemians carried a deep importance for Taylor. “It was a great win,” he said. “To go to Dalymount Park and win shows the qualities and the characters that we’ve got.
“We’ve always said there are players out injured and we’ve been waiting for them to come back in. I think we showed our qualities, not just in terms of getting the ball down and moving it about, but we’re a lot more physical this season.
“But we need to keep it going. It’s fine and well to come up and get your result, but we need to realise how we got the result. It’s down to the basis of working hard and everybody fighting together for each other.
“We’ve got a great squad here. We’ve got a very, very good dressing-room and that definitely saw us through. I don’t think Bohs caused us any problems in the second half and we were comfortable in the game.”
Similar to what Cooke is saying - despite Athlone’s lowly current position - Taylor insists there wasn’t any real panic before the Bohemians encounter. “There were never any panic stations. We should have won the game last week against UCD. We had players coming back from illnesses and injuries. There was never any panic. We’ve got a very good team. We’ve got a good squad of players. It was just a case of getting that rub of the green.
“We just need to make sure that we’re doing our job properly, we’re playing and doing our job right and we’re picking up points along the way,” Taylor said. It is exactly what Athlone intend to do also and the Midlanders will be especially eager to make a statement at Thomond.