Having narrowed the gap on Bray Wanderers and UCD, Keith Long’s Athlone Town will be hoping to post another positive result when hosting Bohemians at Lissywollen on Friday.
Four SSE Airtricity League Premier Division draws in a row has boosted Athlone’s account and the Midlanders now only trail UCD by three points. Considering Athlone struggled so much in the early weeks of the campaign it is hugely impressive that they are now able to avoid relegation.
Despite the significant improvement, Long is aware that Athlone must maintain the form which has injected their survival cause with optimism. The two most recent matches on home turf showcased Athlone’s durability as they fought back enthusiastically against Shamrock Rovers and title-chasing Cork City.
Long worked diligently in the summer to bolster the Athlone squad repeatedly stressing that the depth the Midlanders currently possess is the chief factor in why the team is performing. Gaining maximum use of the limited resources available to him Long is emerging as a useful operator at the highest level in this country.
Athlone, who registered their first point of the year in May, have battled admirably since then and are quietly confident of catching the Students and Bray. Those two outfits had been fairly efficient initially, but have been ailing badly during the past couple of months.
Due to UCD and Bray’s difficulties Athlone feel that they can climb up the table, but Bohemians are rugged opponents. Under Owen Heary’s stewardship Bohs have only been beaten nine times in 26 fixtures. Indeed the Gypsies have drawn 10 fixtures in the top flight in 2014 so perhaps Athlone will extend their run of stalemates to five in a row.
Dinny Corcoran has been prominent up front for the Phibsboro-based club, while midfielder Eoin Wearen continues to deliver competent displays. Bohs did exit the FAI Ford Cup last Friday when losing a frenetic Dublin derby to St Patrick’s Athletic.
Limerick FC and Drogheda United are both a point ahead of Bohs in the standings so Heary’s charges are still hopeful of obtaining a seventh placed finish. Spirited throughout the year Bohs have the pace and ability to pose questions of Athlone’s resolve, but the Midlanders know how critical this upcoming contest is. That alone means Friday’s collision at Lissywollen will be worth monitoring especially considering Bray host St Patrick’s Athletic at the Carlisle Grounds too.