ATHLONE Town manager Padraig Moran was left satisfied with his first game in charge of the club, following a hectic week in the build-up to their Airtricity League 1st Division draw against Longford Town.
Athlone battled back from going behind in the opening half (to a Colm James goal) to eventually earn a share of the spoils through Neil Harney's equaliser.
Speaking to the Westmeath Independent on Monday, Moran recapped on a busy week since Mike Kerley's departure as manager.
"It was a tough week and it took a fair bit out of me. There's just a whole lot more to be done when you're manager. The work-load was fairly hectic anyway, but it's intensified. I have to give credit to the players because they've been great. I've been extremely happy with the way they've applied themselves in training, and in the game last Friday.
"We didn't play to the type of intensity I'd like overall, but it's still very early days for us as a group. The result, and particularly the second half display, gives us something to build upon, and I absolutely think we're capable of going to Finn Harps this weekend (Saturday, Finn Park, 7.45pm) and getting a result," said Moran.
Moran also thanked the Athlone supporters after the manager was informed by club officials that last Friday's attendance was the biggest of the season to date.
"That's encouraging and they (the supporters) got behind us in the second half. I don't want to dampen that sort of enthusiasm. I want to attack, create chances and score goals, and that's why we tried to push on and win the game. We could've won it, but at the same time could've lost it late on. My short-term ambition is to win every game we play, and finish fourth in the table. We're 17 points behind third place, so that's impossible with only six games remaining for us, but I'm determined to finish fourth, which would be an improvement and a step in the right direction for the club," Moran said.
Moran also praised the input of second half substitutes, the local pairing of Brian Gill and Ian Sweeney, who made big impacts upon their introductions against Longford.
"The two lads did what we asked - they impacted upon the match and made a difference. For too long, we've brought on substitutes and they've been happy to go through the motions. I don't want that to happen anymore, it's pointless. The whole point of having a squad is so there's people ready on the bench, prepared to come in at any moment to make a difference, not just make up the numbers and stroll through 20, 25 minutes. Ian Sweeney asked a lot of questions of their defence. They started to retreat and Ian did very well. Brian has had a good season and played very well when brought on. They're two good, young players that have a big part to play between now and the end of the season," he said.
Though Niall Scullion and Joe Woods return to the squad this weekend after suspension, midfielder Sean Skelly must serve another three-game ban for his recent sending off against SD Galway.
Stephen Last is likely to be considered after injury, but Moran also confirmed that Brian Collopy, Paul Danaher, Sean Guerins and Mark Walshe have all been released by the club (upon their own requests).
They join Limerick native Jason Hughes in having been released, upon request, in recent weeks.
Garvan Broughall and Stephen Relihan have also returned to training over the past couple of weeks. Both have missed a large chunk of the season through work commitments in the United States, but played very well before departing for the States. Neither is likely to feature this coming weekend, but their comebacks seem imminent.