Athlone Town’s last game before the mid season SSE Airtricity League Premier Division break will be a crucial contest at Lissywollen this evening. Drogheda United, who have suffered nine defeats in 10 top flight matches provide the opposition for a match which the midlanders must take something from if relegation is to be avoided.
Keith Long’s side, knocked out of the FAI Ford Cup by Longford Town, know that a positive performance must be produced. “We have picked up four points in the five league games since I’ve come to the football club,” Long said. “We are still getting used to each other, the players and I. It is going to take time; things don’t happen overnight. The most important thing for me is that a win or two changes the complexion of the league table completely.
“We have to try starting against Drogheda on Friday by picking up a win. We need to be as positive as we can be. We have to be as organised as we can possibly be.
“We will have the break then and we have Bohs after the break. If we can hang on to the coat tails of other clubs, a win or two would change the table a bit. We need to go on a run by getting a win or two. The Longford game highlighted the extent of the task on our hands. We know it isn’t going to be easy. If things were perfect or rosy in the garden I wouldn’t be here in the first place.”
Athlone currently trail second from bottom Bohemians by nine points so trimming that gap is the objective. “We have a big game now against Drogheda next Friday, it is our job to pick the players up by having them ready to feature against Drogheda,” Long said.
Hopefully we can turn the negative of the Longford game into a positive against Drogheda.
“The Longford game was over at two nil, I thought it was a soft decision for their second. We had to go chasing the game then which meant we were going to leave ourselves a little bit exposed at the back. There was no way back for us unfortunately.”
Long was disappointed to exit the Cup, but the Athlone boss reckons that despite being a division below, Longford’s squad is sprinkled with quality players. “Premier Division football is a step up from the First Division. Longford’s squad is full of Premier Division standard players, you only have to look at their team. They have three or four league winners, they have lads that have played in first team sides in England etc, so they have a squad full of experienced players.
“We knew they would be ready for us. Obviously we would have liked to have gone further in the Cup. It is a big trophy and we would have liked to go on a Cup game.”
When Robbie Horgan’s Boynesiders’ visit the Midlands today, Long wants Athlone to be primed for a battle from the first whistle. “We were slow starting, I don’t know why that was,” Long commented about the Longford loss. “ The players were ready to go and we were upbeat in terms of our preparation. It is just one of those things and the first goal was the key point in the game.
“Longford got it which was unfortunate from our point of view and they were able to capitalise on it and get a second. The deciding factor was the first goal, unfortunately it didn’t go our way. To be honest we didn’t threaten too often, certainly not as much as I would have liked.
“We huffed and puffed at times. We started the second half a little brighter compared to the first half and for a while it looked as if we might threaten, but Longford were full value for their win in my view. We have no complaints.”