ATHLONE Town are looking to get their promotion push back on track this Friday when they entertain lowly SD Galway at Lissywoolen (7.45pm).
Following a disappointing defeat to third-placed Waterford Utd last weekend, Athlone will be desperate to notch three points this time around, with a big game against Midlands rivals and current table-toppers Longford Town to come the week after.
By the time the Longford arrives, Athlone are likely to have at least two new signings available for selection.
Former Town winger Eric Molloy recently agreed to sign back for the club and manager Mike Kerley intended to involve him against Waterford, however, last week it emerged that Molloy was still registered to the league as a professional, despite several years out of the Airtricity League, and cannot feature until July 1.
The same ruling applies to midfielder Barry O'Mahony, who formerly played with Sligo Rovers' reserves, but who spent most of the first half of this season with Finn Harps.
Athlone are also currently assessing a triallist from Monaghan Utd, who withdrew from the league last week, while Korean Li Sung, who has been training with the club for several months, has not yet been signed and continues to try to win a contract. There's also some suggestion that Athlone could be in contention to sign a couple of players on loan from Sligo Rovers in early July.
This weekend, Athlone will welcome Brian Gill back from a one-match suspension, and he's expected to go straight back into the side. Athlone supporters will also hope top-scorer Noel McGee, who made a big impact after coming on as a substitute against Waterford, will be fully fit to start.
Left-back Ross Kenny is also hoping to return to the squad after missing the last three games through injury, but Mark Walshe is expected to miss out again with an arm injury. Promising midfielder Warren Conroy was also recently added to the injury list after picking up a knee injury against Wexford Youths, and is likely to miss out for several weeks, while defender Paul Danaher is out for the rest of the season.
Speaking to the Westmeath Independent, assistant manager Padraig Moran said it's vital Athlone return to winning ways against bottom-placed SD Galway, who had an encouraging win over Mervue Utd last weekend.
"The Waterford game was huge for us, but unfortunately we came out on the wrong side of it. The scoreline seemed harsh and a bit flattering to Waterford, but we have to pick ourselves up now. It's imperative we beat SD Galway and keep pushing for third place. We want to stay in touch, and keep on Waterford's coat-tails.
Waterford play Limerick this weekend, so if they lose and we win, we're back in contention. Hopefully, we can freshen up the squad a bit come July, and then look forward to the Longford game. Firstly, it's vital we overcome SD Galway and keep ourselves in the mix," said Moran.
The Airtricity First Division is now at its midway point, with 14 matches remaining, and Athlone lie in fourth position, four points behind Waterford Utd and 12 behind league leaders Longford Town.
To help generate more support for the team, Athlone Town officials this week distributed hundreds of free passes to National School children in the region.
The passes allow children from national schools to attend the SD Galway game on Friday for free, with the added bonus that an accompanying adult can access the ground for half price (€5).