ATHLONE Town will kick-off a big week in their 2014 season when they face near neighbours Longford Town in the opening round of EA Sports League Cup tonight (Monday, Lissywollen, 7.45pm).
Athlone began life back in the Airtricity League Premier Division with a 2-1 loss at Sligo Rovers last Saturday, when the late concession of a goal resulted in a narrow defeat.
The home side will make a late check on the fitness of Derek Prendergast, who missed last weekend’s season opener through a suspension carried over from last season. Barry Clancy, who also missed the Sligo game through suspension, is likely to come into the side, while Athlone manager Mick Cooke is looking at making a handful of changes with a massive league coming up at home to Shamrock Rovers on Friday (7.45pm, Lissywollen).
However, Cooke is reluctant to make wholesale changes and values the League Cup highly, having steered former club Drogheda Utd to the last two finals of the competition and winning it in 2012.
“I think we have to treat every competition seriously. We already took a positive approach in the opening round of the Leinster Senior Cup and while ideally you’d be looking at making a few changes from the Sligo game, none of the players want to be rested for this fixture and we’ll be looking to go out and put in a good performance in a derby fixture,” said Cooke.
This will be the fifth time that Athlone and Longford have met in the opening round of the League Cup in the last six seasons, while Athlone clawed back a nine-point deficit on Longford to win the First Division title in 2013. Athlone against Longford is one of seven first round matches taking place around the country tonight.