Having shown signs of improvement at the end of the first half of the SSE Airtricity League Premier Division season, Athlone Town will be quietly confident of causing another surprise at Dalymount Park this evening.
Bohemians have enjoyed a couple of productive results themselves, defeating Limerick FC in the FAI Cup and Bray Wanderers in the top flight to edge away from the relegation zone. That is exactly where Athlone find themselves, but the six-goal demolition carried out against Drogheda United a fortnight ago bodes well.
Keith Long was completely aware of how significant a fixture that was as Athlone’s campaign hinged on the outcome. The fact that such a convincing success was registered suggests there is a bit of optimism surrounding Athlone again so they will make the trip to Phibsboro today eager to build on the Drogheda triumph.
In that match Athlone registered their third clean sheet of the campaign, and ensuring the Midlanders are difficult to beat is one of Long’s main briefs. Being safe and solid defensively is what Long intends to be and the manner in which the team have performed recently is encouraging.
Having failed to score in nine of their 16 games Athlone will also need to be far more clinical converting opportunities at the opposite end of the park. With only seven points on the board Athlone need to improve quickly and the Gypsies can be a capable outfit when in the mood.
Throughout the year Athlone have been slow starters and haven’t netted a goal in the first quarter of an hour of any contest thus far. That is an area in which Bohemians have been impressive, hitting four of their 19 goals early on so Athlone must be tuned in from the outset.
What will give Athlone hope, though, is the Dubliners’ poor record on home turf as Owen Heary’s charges have fared better on the road. Twelve of Bohemians’ 16 points have been earned on the road, with only four arriving from home fixtures. Also the Gypsies have only bagged five wins in eight home ties so it will be interesting to see whether Athlone can pose questions of Bohemians’ resolve.
Goals from Philly Gorman (2 ), Derek Prendergast, James O’Brien, Sean Brennan, and Ian Sweeney steered Athlone to a convincing and critical win over Drogheda so the next challenge is to stitch an unbeaten sequence together. Attaining any kind of dividend from the trip to Dalymount would be satisfactory as Athlone continue their brave fight to avoid a quick return to the first division.