Longford Town FC continued their impeccable record against arch rivals Athlone Town this season, but tonight it was the under-19’s who had their “El Clasico” moment as Darren McGarry’s side put six past a sloppy Athlone side.
Despite the scoreline and Longford’s total dominance, it was actually the visitors who started strongest and had a couple of opportunities to take the lead inside the opening quarter of an hour at City Calling Stadium. First, a jinking run from deep in the Longford midfield saw an Athlone man break through a number of weak challenges prior to cutting the ball back to an open team-mate, who despite taking time to steady himself, somehow managed to blaze over from the very edge of the six-yard line….A huge let off for Longford. Minutes later and Athlone were cursing their luck, or in truth their lack of ruthlessness in front of goal, when the “Blue and Black” rattled the crossbar from just yards out after a miss-hit cross had come back into play off the post. However, in between those two Athlone chances and the hosts had taken one of their own to go ahead when Josh Sherlock was played through and he made no mistake in slotting the ball home. 1-0 Longford after 22 minutes, but Athlone were certainly fighting back.
It was Longford’s turn to turn down a couple of fine chances next, when first a free header from roughly eight-yards was headed over before winger, Conor Cummins saw his chipped attempt turned away for a corner after a jinking run of his own. However, the second was soon to come for McGarry’s charges and despite some good build up play by his players, the goal came by in large due to some questionable goalkeeping. With Dan Beya cutting outside and then in, inside the opposition penalty area, “De Town” senior squad member managed to manufacture enough space to deliver a low cross, which the Athlone ‘keeper palmed straight into the path of striker, Jerry Ioahor who gladly converted from short range.
Again, Athlone were determined to deliver a blow of their own and went close to doing so almost instantly from the restart as a low short from their number eight trickled wide of Adam Kenny’s far post. An open and attacking game had now developed, but it was Longford who were showcasing their ability to not only keep the ball but move it at pace. With new senior team manager, Neale Fenn demanding all Longford teams play a possession based style of football, McGarry clearly has his players working hard with the ball in training.
Athlone’s fight-back was dealt a real blow after that second goal when they lost their right-full, who had been the stand out performer on the pitch up until that point. It didn’t take long for the effect of that injury to hit Athlone hard as Longford took a 3-0 lead into the break. Again, the Lissywoolen outfit failed to clear their lines inside the box and when the ball fell to Beya he curled home to the delight of the small home crowd.
Everytime Athlone tried to answer back they were being totally exposed by a brilliant Longford on the counter-attack. This was highlighted perfectly when Athlone found themselves chasing back from their own corner in just a matter of seconds after Kelly had punched the ball clear and it was picked up by the excellent Josh Sherlock. Luckily for the visitors, that move broke down and they could at least try and regroup themselves as the half-time whistle sounded.
A double substitution was made during the interval by a clearly frustrated Athlone boss, but in truth it had zero effect. Sherlock was having a field day in the Longford midfield as more and more space began to open up for the number ten, who went close to a second on the night when he fired wide from twenty-yards out.
Longford could smell blood and their players went about pressurising the opposition as soon as they received the ball and it almost worked to perfect effect when Beya dispossessed an Athlone defender inside his own eighteen-yard box, only for Beya to be seemingly pulled to the ground…..No penalty given despite loud Longford appeals.
In truth, Longford need not be worried about the lack of luck in terms of decisions as they totally humiliated their rivals on the night, but “De Town” did count their lucky stars when an over-head effort was cleared off the line following an Athlone corner-kick (Footage below).
Not only was the football on show getting better with each passing minute, but so were the goals for Longford, who made it 4-0 when Jerry Ioahor curled one in to the top left-hand-corner off his left-foot, a sweet strike from the seventeen-year-old striker. Josh Sherlock was not to be denied his man of the match award however, as he made it 5-0 following some wonderful link up play between himself and Ioahor, just shortly after the number nine had got himself on the scoresheet.
This had now turned into a total embarrassment for the visitors, as Longford emptied their bench and it was in fact a substitute who would put Athlone out of their misery in stoppage time as Keelan Patel was played in by the equally impressive Conor Cummins, with Patel finishing the move off with a deft flick over the on-rushing goalkeeper. Job done and in some style for “De Town”.
Speaking to Between the Stripes after the game, Longford under-19’s boss, Darren McGarry said:
“I’m delighted with the performance of our lads. I said after the Shels game that I was happy with the amount of chances we managed to create and that it was a matter of time before we started to put some away. I think we definitely showed that tonight. On the other end of the scale it’s great to finally get the first clean sheet of the season. With both putting chances away and keeping a clean sheet it shows the improvement of the players. There’s definitely potential in this team with players like Aodh and Dan up training full time with Neale (Fenn). The result is great but for me it’s about giving these lads the platform to be able to get make the step up to the first team. ”
Longford Town under-19 team sheet V Athlone Town: Between the Stripes man of the match: Josh Sherlock – The attacking midfielder was always looking to spin and run directly at what was clearly an unorganised Athlone Town back-four. His attacking desire created multiple opportunities for “De Town” and he clearly has all the attributes to make a potential step-up to first-team football.