Six SSE Airtricity League Premier Division draws in a row ensure Athlone Town now only trail second from bottom UCD by one point as the season edges towards an exciting conclusion.
Four games remain as Keith Long’s outfit continue to impress with their disciplined and defiant performances under pressure. The stalemate at the Brandywell against Derry City was Athlone’s latest positive result and Long was pleased with how the Midlanders coped Foyleside. “It was a good performance last Friday night,” Long said. “Going to the Brandywell is one of the toughest places to go so we were happy to get something out of the game.”
“Derry played their strongest side which was important for the integrity of the league. We faced tough opposition so to get a point was pleasing. Obviously it is on the back of drawing a number of games recently so it is important we build momentum and keep our positive run going.
“We would have liked to have won a game or two during the run we are on, but we keep bridging the gap between ourselves and UCD. It is down to one point with only four games to go so we have given ourselves a chance.”
On Friday Athlone travel to Thomond Park for a critical contest with Limerick FC and Long hopes his team can register a victory. “I don’t think you can look any further than the next game and that is Limerick away. You have to take it game by game. It is important that we win a game and we will be looking to do that against Limerick.
“The integrity of the league is important. No team wants to be turned over on their home patch in front of their own supporters. Limerick will be approaching the game feeling it is a game they can win. It is a game we will be looking to win like we have done so far. Obviously that hasn’t worked out all of the time, but we will be doing our level best to pick up three points.
“We will look no further than Limerick. As long as we are in with a shout going into the last game, that is what we intended to do. Having no points after 10 games left us fiercely behind, but we have bridged the gap. We are positive and we believe, the players and the backroom team, that we can get out of the situation we are in.”
One of the most encouraging aspects for Long in the past couple of months has been the fact that significant competition for starting places currently exists. “We have a squad now,” Long reckons. “Even on Friday we changed things a little bit bringing in players who stood up to the test. We want everybody pushing each other. Long may that continue and hopefully we will get enough points to keep us in the division.”