European hopefuls Sligo Rovers visit CCS in pre-season action
The City Calling Stadium faithful will get their first glimpse of a rebuilt Longford Town side on Tuesday night when N4 neighbors Sligo Rovers make the short trip for this pre-season fixture. Alan Mathews men put in an impressive performance last Friday night, despite a narrow 1-0 defeat against Bray Wanderers at the AUL in Dublin, and the Midlands outfit will be hoping for a similarly strong test here. Former Town striker Ger Pender was the match winner on Friday but it was the performance of new Longford winger Dylan McGlade that had social media abuzz. The former St.Pat’s player is one of nine new faces at the City Calling Stadium and if Friday’s outing is anything to go by McGlade will have Town fans on the edge of their seats throughout 2017 thanks to his direct running and skills of pure trickery. Second half substitute Enda Curran also caught the eye in Dublin and the Galway native will have his sights set on opening his Longford account against his former clubs arch local rivals. New shot-stopper Jack Brady also left a good first impression with the small but dedicated band of traveling fans last Friday and with Paul Skinner at fault for Bray’s winner, Brady will be looking to turn the screw on his team-mate as the battle for a starting spot against his former club Shelbourne on the opening day of the season intensifies.
As for Dave Robertson’s Sligo, the Englishman has made five additions to his squad over the off-season with a couple of those coming to the league via English football. Striker Mathew Stevens arrives on loan from Peterborough while Kenyan international Jonah Ayunga will rival him for a starting berth up top this season. Elsewhere, Irish under-21 defender Kyle Callan-McFadden arrives from the sunshine of Orlando City in the MLS, while Chris Kenny and Shaun Patton join from the less exotic settings of Ferrycarrig Park and the Brandywell respectively. Many followers of the Premier Division were surprised to learn of young Rovers goalkeeper Ciaran Nuggent’s transfer to Galway United in recent weeks but the arrival of Patton should offer sufficient back-up for one of the country’s finest in Michael Schlingermann.
Following a slow start last season the “Bit O’Red” enjoyed a fine run of form in the second half of the year to finally finish in 5th, just six points off a European place. Going one better will be the aim for Robertson and co this campaign and as a result the Englishman has put his charges through an intense pre-season with Tuesday’s game already their fourth of the month! Comfortable 4-0 wins over local side Westport United and Nortern Irish outfit Ballinamallard would have been expected, friendly or otherwise, but Friday nights defeat to Galway United will have Sligo fans looking for an improved performance here.
Longford’s recent record against Sligo is truly atrocious and that trend continued last season as the West of Ireland side claimed seven points out of a possible nine, with a 2-2 draw in the Midlands of little use to rock bottom Longford, who Sligo virtually relegated with a 1-0 win at the Showgrounds in mid-October.
After Tuesday night’s game attention will turn to Saturday’s home tie with Finn Harps at CCS, while friendlies against Bohemians (H) and St.Pat’s are also on the calendar in the coming weeks. No date has been set as of yet for “De Town’s” fourth round Leinster Senior Cup tie against the winners of Firhouse Clover and Evergreen FC, a match-up that will help sharpen up Mathews troops ahead of the massive trip to Tolka Park on February 24th in the First Division.
Longford Town have been priced up as joint favorites for the First Division title this season alongside free spending Waterford FC, who showed their credentials for the year ahead with a credible scoreless draw at home to Cork City at the weekend.