A season-defining encounter awaits Mervue United at Fahy's Field tomorrow evening when Johnny Glynn's side host Airtricity League first division table-toppers Athlone Town.
Roddy Collins' efficient outfit are five points clear of arch rivals Longford Town, who entertain Salthill Devon at City Calling Stadium on Saturday.
Mervue, though, know a loss to Athlone will finish their slim promotion chances so they will be primed for an interesting clash with the current standard bearers. Having only taken one point from their past two matches, Mervue have suffered as Athlone continue to eke out positive results.
The capture of Enda Curran from Salthill has bolstered Athlone's attacking options with Philly Gorman another prolific finisher in their squad. Graham Kelly, who also impressed earlier in the campaign in Salthill's colours, has joined Athlone too, making a fine contribution against Longford in last weekend's derby success.
Athlone's revival, though, has been loaded with diligent defensive displays with Roddy Collins junior, Aiden Collins, and Robbie Clarke effective recently. The first division might be particularly weak this year, but that does not bother Athlone in the slightest as they have confidently gone about their business conceding only 15 goals. That is a significant achievement with Paul Skinner capable between the sticks, racking up a healthy clean sheet account.
Ultimately Mervue's draw with Wexford Youths was a desperately disappointing result with Ryan Manning's absence hindering the home side's attacking play. Tom King, Martin Conneely, Marc Ludden, Gary Shanahan, and Stephen Walsh were prominent, but Mervue just couldn't get the goal they craved so badly. Mervue will need to get a few when Athlone hit the west if a top two placing remains the objective.
Longford's alarming slide has allowed Athlone take command at the summit of the table so Salthill can expect a difficult Saturday evening.
Despite only posting two draws from their last five league tussles, Longford are still heavily involved in the promotion race and a victory over Salthill would settle nerves and provide a much needed injection of optimism.
There is an experienced cut to the Longford squad with Chris Bennion, Noel Haverty, Des Hope, Corie Treacy, Willie Tyrrell, Derek O'Brien, and David O'Sullivan proven at this level. Tony Cousins has introduced youngsters over the course of the campaign, but at this vital stage of the year Longford simply want to win. Points rather than polished performances are what is required as Salthill will undoubtedly testify. From their past half dozen games Salthill have won two and lost four, but they have been competitive and gutsy since a shaky March.
Soundly beaten by Finn Harps in Ballybofey, Salthill, who have lost their best players to clubs at the top of the first division standings, must be resolute and resilient until October. Alex Byrne and Colm Horgan are promising footballers, while from here on in Robbie Gaul, Willie Enubele, and Craig Harding will have to supply guile as Salthill seek to trim the six point gap on second from bottom Cobh Ramblers.