Longford Town back on the winning trail to maintain title challenge

As the Airtricity League returned after the three week break Longford Town got back on the winning trail in the First Division with a hard fought victory over Finn Harps in Ballybofey on Friday night last.

After suffering two defeats in a row (in the FAI Cup and league) just before the break and their gap at the top of the table cut to just one point the Town knew they had to bounce back with a win in Finn Park.

The terrible weather conditions didn’t help for a decent game of football and it was the home side who had the first chance on goal in the 9th minute; James Doherty’s cross from the right found Gary Merritt but the winger headed narrowly wide.

Five minutes later and the Town opened the scoring; Karl Bermingham firing the ball to the bet after connecting with a knock-down from strike partner Gary Shaw. It was Bermingham’s second goal of the season.

In the 21st minute Aaron O’Hagan made a great block to deny Michael Lee from making it 2-0 for the visitors after he had dispossessed Matt Harkin.

Harkin had a chance to make amends one minute later; getting onto the end of Thomas Bonner’s cross but his header just went wide of the far post.

Harps had another chance to get on level terms on the half-hour mark when Paul McVeigh pounced on a poor backpass by Keith Gillespie and went racing through on goal but Town defender Chris Deans did well to clear the danger.

After soaking up the pressure the Town doubled their lead in the 33rd minute. Thomas Crawley did very well to get past the challenges of both Harkin and Doherty and he put in the perfect ball for Gary Shaw to hit the target from close range. It was also Shaw’s second goal of the season and his first since the opening league game against Mervue United.

But Harps came storming back and Des Hope had to block Bonner’s effort from a McVeigh cross. Right before the break the home side got the goal they deserved when Harkin headed home Thomas McBride’s cross.

There was nothing of note in the early stages of the second half as neither side created any chances. Finn Harps had the first opportunity when a corner from McBride met the head of O’Hagan but he directed his effort wide. Two minutes later and McVeigh’s header was just off target after a fine ball in from Merritt.

It was against the run of play that the Town extended their lead in the 71st minute when a penalty was awarded after O’Hagan was adjudged to have brought down Craig Walsh in the box. Harps protested but referee Adriano Reale waved them away. Colm James stepped up to take the spot-kick which was saved by Harps keeper Ciaran Gallagher but James followed up to convert the rebound which leaves him as Longford’s leading scorer on five goals.

That was to be the last real action of the game. The home side just couldn’t find a way of getting back into the game as the Town secured a vital win. The midlanders are now unbeaten on the road this season and are on their travels again this Friday when they take on Mervue United at Fahy’s Field.

FINN HARPS: Ciaran Gallagher, Ciaran Coll, James Doherty, Thomas McMonagle, Aaron O’Hagan, Thomas Bonner, Matt Harkin, Thomas McBride, Shaun McGowan, Gary Merritt, Paul McVeigh.

Subs:- Shane McGinty for McVeigh (74 mins); Keith Cowan for Harkin (76 mins); Jordan McBride for T McBride (90 mins).

LONGFORD TOWN: Craig Hyland, Noel Haverty, Des Hope, Chris Deans, Michael Lee, Colm James, Craig Walsh, Keith Gillespie, Thomas Crawley, Gary Shaw, Karl Bermingham.

Subs:- Jamie Duffy for Walsh (63 mins); Daniel Purdy for Shaw (85 mins).

Referee: Adriano Reale (Kildare).