League season ambitions are achieved as Athlone seal play-off berth with local derby draw


Prior to their final league game of the season, Athlone were still unsure of their place in the play-offs the main threat to their ambitions being Treaty United who were two points inferior to the Town pre kick-off in Lissywollen on Friday night.

The Limerick outfit needed to win in Waterford and hope Longford Town were successful in the Midlands derby in order to claim that final play-off berth, but a scoreless draw was sufficient for Athlone who remained unbeaten against their old rivals in 2023 as a run of recent losses was halted.

Longford were in no mood to make it easy for Athlone and earned the first corner kick of the contest inside the opening minute. The home team’s first chance saw Jamar Campion-Hinds have a shot saved by goalkeeper Jack Brady after nine minutes. Moments later, Valerii Dolia from the left fired over following a pass from Aaron Connolly.

Longford responded with a second corner after 15 minutes but seldom threatened thereafter until later in the half. Athlone earned their first corner after 21 minutes from which Campion-Hinds shot wide. Patrick Hickey then saw his long-range attempt also go off target. Top scorer Frantz Pierrot had few chances of adding to his goal tally and shot wide from Campion-Hinds low cross on the left.

The provider should have opened the scoring on 29 minutes but, with the goal at his mercy, blasted over instead. The visitors might have sneaked the lead in first half stoppage time when a cross from the left was tipped up in the air by goalkeeper Enda Minogue. Fortunately for the home team the ball carried no further momentum towards goal and was cleared to safety.

With nothing to play for other than pride, Stephen Henderson’s men still provided stiff opposition when play resumed. The first chance of the second period saw Kyle O’Connor drill a shot over the bar. Campion-Hinds was again providing the main home threat and had another good chance to break the deadlock on 50 minutes but saw his shot tipped behind by Brady. Olajuwon Adeyemo then fired over for Longford.

Home substitute Dylan Gavin came close to scoring midway through the second half when his curling effort from the left just cleared the far post with Brady beaten. After 75 minutes, Oisin Duffys cross from the right picked out Hickey but the midfielder’s header went wide.

Cristian Magerusan had been part of an earlier Longford treble substitution and was off target as the away team looked to spoil the Athlone party. The host’s last chance of scoring came on the stroke of full time but a free kick was not taken advantage of. There was late drama in the first additional minute that might have seen Longford snatch a last gasp victory. A cross from the right fell to the unmarked Magerusan but he somehow fired over from close range.

The only real surprise was that the game finished scoreless after both teams had leaked goals at an alarming rate in recent weeks.


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