Mark Salmon’s goal eight minutes from time sent Longford Town into the fourth round of the FAI Cup at the expense of a dogged Finn Harps at a rain-soaked Finn Park on Monday night last.
As time ticked down and extra-time looking the likely outcome in the third round replay the Town were awarded a penalty after Harps defender Packie Mailey clearly pushed Lee Roche in the box. Salmon’s spot-kick was saved by Ciaran Gallagher in the Harps goal but the midfielder reacted well to fire home the rebound to the sheer delight of the travelling Town support.
It was no more than the players deserved because they battled bravely throughout despite being on the receiving end of some robust challenges which went unpunished by the referee but when it came to the Town he was quite happy to dish out yellow cards. The standard of officiating in the League of Ireland generally leaves a lot to be desired.
As well as having a number of players out injured for Monday night’s game Austin Skelly and Alvin Rouse were forced to retire early through injury. The Town were fortunate to have Paul Hunt to bring on in place of Rouse in goals but Skelly was a huge loss when he went off as the visitors struggled in attack.
In the 30th minute Don Cowan put a pinpoint cross into the box but substitute Jason Oladele was unlucky to lose his footing right in front of goals. Scoring chances were very scarce indeed in the first half.
The Town did create a good opportunity five minutes into the second half. Oladele’s cross wasn’t dealt with by the Harps defence and the ball came out to Lee Roche but his powerful shot was cleared. Harps had their first effort on goal in the 58th minute but Paddy McLaughlin’s long-range shot flew straight into the arms of opposing keeper Hunt.
Harps then proceeded to dominate the exchanges and created a few chances. Garbhann Friel went through on goal but was denied by an excellent tackle by Des Hope, who was immense throughout in the heart of the Longford defence. Friel was able to get a touch and pass to Mark Forker but he shot wide. Two minutes later Forker’s ball found the head of Marc Brolly but his effort drifted wide of the target.
The Town defence stood firm and were superb as the home side piled on the pressure and in the 78th minute Forker went through but he hit his effort high and wide.
With neither team looking like they were going to break the deadlock and with extra-time looming, Harps central defender Mailey needlessly bundled over Roche in the box. Salmon failed to find the target from the penalty spot but fired home the rebound to clinch another excellent FAI Cup win for Longford Town at such a difficult venue.
FINN HARPS: Ciaran Gallagher, Ciaran Coll, Paddy McLaughlin, Packie Mailey, Mark Forker, Marc Brolly, Gareth Harkin, Thomas Bonner, Aaron McElwee, Keith Cowan, Garbhan Friel.
Sub:- Blaine Curtis for Friel (73 mins).
LONGFORD TOWN: Alvin Rouse, Chris Deans, Paddy Collins, Des Hope, Gary Cronin, Craig Walsh, Thomas Hyland, Mark Salmon, Lee Roche, Don Cowan, Austin Skelly.
Subs:- Jason Oladele for Skelly (injured, 25 mins); Paul Hunt for Rouse (injured, 28 mins); Daniel O’Reilly for Cowan (82 mins).
Referee: John McLoughlin (Athlone).