COBH RAMBLERS will hope to get their First Division campaign properly up and running this Saturday (7pm) when the entertain Athlone Town at St Colman’s Park.
On match night one of the campaign away to Drogheda United it felt that everything that could have gone wrong did go wrong for Ramblers.
Their preparations were hampered by their bus arriving late at United Park and then given little time to warm up by the match referee on the night.
If that wasn’t bad enough, it was 5am when they got back to Leeside due to their bus breaking down once more.
All in all, though Ramblers could have few complaints about the result last Friday night. Drogheda were the better team on the night and they fully deserved their victory. In contrast, Cobh never really got going at all.
Athlone will come down with good confidence in the camp. Compared to the last couple of difficult years, there is a feeling that the club has turned a corner and things look to improve on the pitch in 2019.
Following a victory over Dundalk in midweek in the Leinster Senior Cup, Athlone opened their league campaign with a 4-2 home win over Wexford.
It was their first league win on the pitch since May 2017, which was against Cobh Ramblers, summing up how bad the last two years have been for them.
The Athlone goals against Wexford came from Dean Casey, Dean Williams, Kaleem Simon and Kealan Dillon.
This is an Athlone side that is unquestionably the strongest they have had in a number of years. At this early juncture, a top half finish looks like it could potentially be a realistic target for Athlone.
The only way really is up for Terry Butler’s side and this year will be primarily about putting Athlone Town back on the map, after what has been a tough spell in the history of the Midlanders.
Looking at the challenge that awaits his team on Saturday, Ramblers boss Stephen Henderson said:
“Athlone have signed some good players and they will be very difficult opposition for everybody this year, us included.
“They have a very good manager and Athlone will come down buoyed by that win over Wexford and especially the win against Dundalk in the Leinster Senior Cup.
“We will have to go into the match a little bit angry that realistically our season didn’t start last Friday night.
“So hopefully we can use this game Saturday to get going and to kick start our season.”
When the pair faced off in St Colman’s Park last season, it was Ramblers that won 1-0.
With regards to this Saturday’s game, home form will be vital for Ramblers if they are to have any aspirations of challenging for the playoffs.
This was an area which really left them down in the league in 2018 and it is something which they will have to address over the coming months, starting of course with the Athlone game this Saturday.
The opening night of action in the First Division backed up somewhat suggestions that this campaign will be a highly competitive one.
Ramblers will hope that the blip against Drogheda will be a one-off in 2019 and they will seek to get their campaign officially up and running this weekend.