Airtricity League First Division

Longford Town’s First Division title hopes suffered a massive blow at Flancare Park on Saturday evening last when they were defeated by Finn Harps. With seven games left to play the Town trail leaders Limerick by six points and who also have a superior goal difference. At this stage it appears that Longford will have to go through the play-off route in their quest for promotion to the Premier Division.

It’s disappointing because the Town had been top of the table and ahead of Limerick by four points at one stage but their inconsistency and inability to put away chances that come their way have cost them dearly. Against Harps they had enough chances to win the game but failed to find the back of the net. The Donegal side on the other hand had only two good chances; they scored with one and forced Town keeper Craig Hyland into making a good save with the other effort.

On a dismal night for Longford they also lost defender Noel Haverty who had to be stretchered off with a broken elbow in the 29th minute. It was a huge loss for the Town because the full-back has been one of their better performers this season.

The home side started the game very well and had the ball in the back of the net inside the opening five minutes but Daniel Purdy’s effort was bizarrely disallowed. In the 6th minute Purdy tried his luck again but his low drive was excellently pushed out by a corner by Harps keeper Ciaran Gallagher.

Purdy turned provider one minute later when his corner from the left was headed over by defender Willo McDonagh. After a lull in play the Town began to create more chances and Keith Gillespie’s snapshot from just inside the box went over. Gallagher was by far the busier keeper as Town applied more pressure and in the 23rd minute Robert Bayly forced the Harps netminder into making a save.

Longford continued to press and in the 25th minute a corner from Thomas Crawley met the head of Gary Shaw but he was thwarted by Gallagher and while the loose ball fell to Haverty he shot wide. The defender fell awkwardly while taking the shot and suffered a broken elbow and the game was held up while the paramedics attended to him.

After being completely outplayed Harps had a chance in the 31st minute but Matt Harkin blasted his effort over the bar. In the 36th minute Des Hope put the ball in the net but yet again it was ruled out. Crawley had an effort just before the break but his curling shot was deflected out for a corner as the Town finished the first half strong.

Three minutes into the second half Purdy had a chance and it looked like he was going to finally break the deadlock but Sean McGowan did very well to track back and clear the danger. The Town were to rue those missed chances as in the 51st minute Harps took the lead. Kevin McHugh picked the ball up inside the box and with the Town players standing off him he curled a shot past Longford keeper Hyland.

Michael Lee did very well in the 63rd minute to break down the wing, putting a perfect ball into the box but Gallagher did well to come out and punch the ball away before a Town player could make a connection.

Harps had a chance to double their advantage in the 76th minute, again totally against the run of play. Tommy Bonner fired in a powerful shot but Longford keeper Hyland pulled off a superb save to force the ball out for a corner.

Inside the final 10 minutes the Town went in search of the equaliser. In the 82nd minute Bayly took a shot from about 25 yards out but Gallagher got the slightest of touches to the ball to deflect it out for a corner.

Despite having possession, the Town just couldn’t find a way to beat the competent Harps keeper Gallagher and thus crashed to their fourth home defeat of the season.

LONGFORD TOWN: Craig Hyland; Noel Haverty, Willo McDonagh, Des Hope, Michael Lee; Robert Bayly, Keith Gillespie, Karl Bermingham, Daniel Purdy; Gary Shaw, Thomas Crawley.

Subs:- Mark Salmon for Haverty (injured, 29 mins); Alan Kirby for Purdy (60 mins); Tony Griffith for Bermingham (72 mins).

FINN HARPS: Ciaran Gallagher; Ciaran Coll, Keith Cowan, James Doherty, Thomas McGonagle; Aaron O’Hagan, Matt Harkin, Thomas Bonner, Shaun McGowan; Adam Clarke, Kevin McHugh.

Subs:- Paul McVeigh for McGonagle (64 mins); Ryan Curran for Clarke (85 mins).

Referee: Andrew Mullally.