Honours even in Midlands derby as Longford strike late

Athlone Town were just minutes away from recording a first victory of the season over Midland rivals Longford Town only for substitute Enda Curran to strike against his former club and salvage a point for the visitors.

Conor Barry had handed the home side an early lead last Friday night (June 23 ), but Longford equalised just before the break through Jake Kelly. Ethan Keogh restored Athlone's lead with a glancing header after an hour only for Curran to grab a late equaliser as both sides hit the woodwork in each half.

After winning at the same venue back in March, Longford had gone on a bad run without another away win or even a goal to celebrate since. The early pressure came from Athlone as Aidan Friel cleared the danger behind for a corner kick after goalkeeper Paul Skinner had misjudged the flight of the ball.

The visitors relied on the tactic of pumping long balls forward, which almost paid off as Dean Zambra and Kelly then came close to opening the scoring. The lead goal however fell the home side’s way on 13 minutes from a free kick after Stephen Walsh had fouled Niall Scullion on the right. Ryan Gaffey floated the ball into the penalty area which was touched home from close range by Barry at the far post.

Midway through the half, Jason Lyons had a chance to double the lead but was off target after being set up by Dragos Sfrijan. The hosts looked set to head off for half time with a narrow lead, but Longford levelled matters after 42 minutes. A high ball into the penalty area saw Igor Labuts advance to collect, but Kelly got there first to lob the ball into an unguarded net. The visitors might then have taken the lead in stoppage time but Kealan Dillon’s shot hit the post and bounced clear.

Athlone had a chance to regain the lead from their first attack on the resumption of play. Barry created the opening for Gaffey whose well-struck effort was parried upwards by Skinner at the expense of a corner kick. The home side did go back in front on the hour mark when a glancing header from Keogh following a David Brookes cross went to the net past the keeper's left.

The win could have been sealed midway through the second half but the woodwork intervened for a second time. This time it was Athlone's turn to curse their luck as a shot from Lyons hit the upright.

Curran came on as a substitute for Longford with 15 minutes remaining and was to prove the hero for the visitors. With Athlone hanging onto their slender lead, the sub struck with a low shot to the net after 87 minutes.

Gary Cronin’s men might even have stolen all three points in the last minute only for goalkeeper Labuts to deny Zambra on the double as the Longford midfielder took aim from close range.


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