Longford Town’s unbeaten start to their league campaign in the First Division came to an end on Saturday night last when Finn Harps battled back from a goal down to eventually come away from Flancare Park with all three points.
The unbeaten run was going to come to an end at some stage but the frustrating thing about this game was the disappointing manner in which the Town fell to their first league defeat of the season, producing a poor performance and they got what they deserved.
It was hard to believe that in their previous league game they produced the best display of the season to beat Limerick in Jackman Park. You can now predict how the Town games are going to go; they’ll enjoy possession, go in front, fail to create many chances and then allow their opponents to get back into contention. Longford lack the killer instinct and that factor proved costly against Finn Harps.
It had all started so well for the Town who opened the scoring in the 14th minute thanks to an Alan Kirby goal but for all their dominance after that they didn’t create many other opportunities to extend their advantage.
The course of the game then changed dramatically in the 58th minute when Longford keeper Craig Hyland was sent-off and Harps levelled through Paul Simon Treacy. The sending-off was controversial because Hyland appeared to have got the ball and referee Keith Callanan was involved in a similar incident last year; dismissing the other Longford keeper Paul Hunt.
The Town (minus the services of injured defender Des Hope) had taken control of the game from an early stage and the deadlock was broken in the 14th minute when Alan Kirby shot past Harps keeper Rory Kelly. Kirby latched on to Gary Shaw’s pass and beat the offside trap to put the home side in front.
The visitors had a chance to draw level in the 17th minute but Hyland did well to dive to his right and push away Adam Clarke’s free-kick. One minute later the Town were most unlucky not to double their lead when Michael Lee’s powerful shot hit the crossbar.
There was no real flow to the game and despite enjoying the majority of possession the Town gave the ball away too easily on a number of occasions. Three minutes before the break substitute Sean Skelly had a chance for Longford but his cheeky effort went wide. And in first half stoppage time Harps very nearly equalised when Kevin McHugh’s pinpoint cross met the head of defender Thomas McMonagle but his effort was just over the bar.
Harps upped their game in the second half and looked dangerous before they eventually scored. A slack back-pass from Colm James was pounced on by Paul Simon Treacy and while the Town keeper Hyland went for the ball and appeared to have won it, the referee saw it differently and sent him off. Keith Gillespie was subsequently sacrificed for substitute keeper Paul Hunt and his first piece of action was to pick the ball out of the net after Treacy scored from the free-kick that was awarded.
Harps were inspired by that goal as the Town faded completely out of the game and the visitors took the lead in the 78th minute when Thomas McBride scored with a low drive that appeared to get a slight deflection.
There was still time for the Town to try and get back into the game in a bid to salvage their unbeaten record but they failed to test opposing keeper Kelly. And right at the end Harps got their third goal when Blain Curtis outmuscled Town defender Noel Haverty in a tussle for the ball and he made no mistake in finding the net to complete a miserable night for the league leaders.
LONGFORD TOWN: Craig Hyland; Colm James, Noel Haverty, Chris Deans, Thomas Crawley; Alan Kirby, Mark Salmon, Keith Gillespie, Michael Lee; Karl Bermingham, Gary Shaw.
Subs:- Sean Skelly for Salmon (injured, 39 mins); Daniel Purdy for Lee (55 mins) Paul Hunt for Gillespie (58 mins).
FINN HARPS: Rory Kelly; James Doherty, Peter Hutton, Thomas McMonagle, Ciaran Coll; Adam Clarke, Shaun McGowan, Thomas McBride, Paul Simon Treacy; Tommy Bonnar, Kevin McHugh.
Subs:- Blain Curtis for Bonnar (63 mins); Barry O’Mahony for Hutton (77 mins); Ciaran Greene for Treacy (88 mins).
Referee: Keith Callanan (Cork).