Longford Town will have to reproduce some of their early season form if they are to overcome a 2-0 first leg deficit when they travel to the RSC on Friday night to take on Waterford United in the second leg of the First Division promotion play-off.
It’s advantage Waterford after their vital win in Flancare Park on Saturday night last. Just like so many times this season Longford will rue not putting away the chances they created. They had enough possession to get something out of the game but their inability to score cost them dearly once again.
The Town came into this game on the back of four defeats in a row. It was noted that the focus was on the play-off, not the league, but it was evident on Saturday that you need some form coming into a massive game like that.
There was no real passion and the team selection was questionable; something that has to be addressed for Friday’s huge game. Austin Skelly made a major contribution when he came on while Karl Bermingham was also lively and those two definitely need to start in the RSC. The good news is that Michael Lee should be back after missing the first leg though injury. The full-back was sorely missed on Saturday night with Longford giving away two gift goals.
Some supporters had barely taken their seats when Waterford opened the scoring in the 1st minute; Peter White getting on the end of a left-wing cross to head past Longford keeper Craig Hyland.
The goal stunned the home side and it took them a few minutes to settle into the game. They got a hold of the game but despite having lots of possession they failed to have any real effort on target. In the 8th minute Gary Cronin’s strike from distance was deflected out for a corner by David Breen while in the 10th minute Keith Gillespie’s ball into the box was easily gathered by Waterford keeper Holden.
Tony Griffiths had a great chance to draw the home side level in the 17th minute but he headed straight at the opposing netminder. Waterford then broke down the field and very nearly doubled their lead; Peter Keegan hitting a powerful strike which was superbly tipped onto the crossbar by Hyland.
Longford introduced Bermingham for the second half in the hope of getting the equaliser but it was the visitors who got the second goal of the game seven minutes after the break when Gary Dempsey’s free-kick was headed home by the unmarked Craig Burns in sloppy defending from Longford.
Five minutes later the Town had a chance to pull a goal back but Thomas Crawley fluffed his shot and Mark Salmon picked up the loose ball but his effort was cleared by the Waterford defence.
Waterford were always dangerous on the break and in the 63rd minute Phelan forced Hyland into making an excellent save with a rasping shot from just outside the box.
Longford decided to introduce Skelly in the 66th minute and his arrival certainly sparked some life into the Town attack. In the 70th minute Gillespie broke down the field and Skelly did very well to keep the ball in play and head it back across goal but Bermingham couldn’t get onto the end of it. One minute later and Longford had calls for a penalty waved away by Kerry referee Kevin O’Regan after it appeared that Bermingham was pushed in the box when going for the ball. A let-off for Waterford.
It was all Longford at this stage and they pressed hard for a goal; Crawley whipped in a neat ball into the box in the 75th minute but Holden was able to gather. The best chance of the game for the home side came three minutes later; Skelly with an excellent cross into the box but Bermingham directed his header wide.
Longford continued to apply pressure and in the 86th minute Holden brought off an excellent save to deny Salmon and keep his goal intact. Blues defender Stephen Mulcahy had to be alert to the danger in the 90th minute when he cleared Bermingham’s effort which could very easily have gone in.
Waterford came close to getting their third goal right at the end but substitute Darragh Walsh blasted Sean Maguire’s cross over the bar but they are in a strong position going into the second leg at the RSC on Friday night.
LONGFORD TOWN: Craig Hyland; Noel Haverty, Willo McDonagh, Aiden Collins, Gary Cronin; Keith Gillespie, Mark Salmon, Alan Kirby, Robert Bayly, Thomas Crawley; Tony Griffiths.
Subs:- Karl Bermingham for Griffiths (half-time); Austin Skelly for Kirby (66 mins); Daniel Purdy for K Gillespie (79 mins).
WATERFORD UNITED: Packie Holden; Stephen Mulcahy, David Breen, Craig Burns, John Frost; Paul Phelan, Peter White, Gary Dempsey, Peter Higgins; Peter Keegan, Sean Maguire.
Subs:- Ben Ryan for P Higgins (77 mins); Darragh Walsh for P Keegan (82 mins).
Referee: Kevin O’Regan (Kerry).