Longford Town maintained their strong challenge for the First Division title and the sole automatic promotion place when they scored a wonderful win away to Waterford United at the RSC on Friday night last.
This was always going to be a tricky encounter for the Town against a Waterford side who have found a bit of form in recent weeks and who are pushing for a Top 3 finish. The home side created enough chances to win this game but were made rue a number of missed opportunities.
Paul Phelan and rising young star Sean Maguire both had great chances to give Waterford the lead but it was Longford Town who took all three vital points thanks to second half goals from Austin Skelly and Michael Lee to consolidate their place at the top of the table.
Although there was a lively start to the game there were no real clear-cut chances of note apart from Jamie Duffy having a goalbound effort blocked by Blues defender Craig Burns in the 9th minute. Waterford came close with a decent opportunity seven minutes later. Peter Keegan picked up possession just inside the Town half when he linked up with Phelan with a sublime pass out to the left touchline and the winger saw his first time left-footed shot go inches over the bar.
As the first half went on, the game got a little scrappy with very limited goalmouth action. Town goalkeeper Craig Hyland was called into action in the 24th minute when he rose to collect a Paul Carey right-wing cross under pressure from Phelan.
Maguire went close to giving Waterford the lead on 31 minutes when a neat pass from Gary Dempsey picked out the striker out on the right but although he got the better of his marker, he couldn’t get the better of Town netminder Hyland who made a brilliant block with his legs.
It was former Waterford United player Alan Kirby that could have put Longford in front four minutes from the break. Kirby got into the penalty area but his right-footed shot was brilliantly turned around the posts by the home keeper Packie Holden.
The home side went close to opening the scoring with the first chance of the second half. Paul Carey’s right wing cross found Peter Keegan at the back post and his looping header went agonisingly wide in the 51st minute.
Waterford were then guilty of squandering the best scoring opportunity of the game in the 60th minute when Sean Maguire hit the crossbar from about six yards out with Town keeper Craig Hyland beaten.
The ‘blues’ then missed another glorious chance to go in front four minutes later when Dempsey’s ball over the top picked out Maguire, who cut in from the left to shoot inches wide of the right hand post in another let-off for the Town.
Waterford were to pay the price for those missed chances when Keith Gillespie’s right-wing corner kick was flicked on by Jamie Duffy into the path of substitute Austin Skelly and his left-footed shot beat keeper Holden in the 66th minute. Just like last week against Wexford Youths it was the linesman who gave the goal; judging that Skelly’s shot had crossed the line.
Rattled by that setback, the home side nearly conceded a second goal on 78 minutes when Alan Kirby set up Mark Salmon who shot against the post.
It took a brave save from Town keeper Hyland to deny Waterford what would have been a deserved equaliser on 86 minutes. Packie Holden’s long free-kick was flicked on into the path of Ben Ryan but his cracking right-footed shot was brilliantly blocked out for a corner kick.
The Town made sure of the victory in the final minute of the game when Austin Skelly picked out Michael Lee with a superb pass and he got the better of defender Aidan McGrath with considerable ease before slipping a right-footed shot past the helpless Waterford keeper Holden for the visitors second goal.
WATERFORD UNITED: Packie Holden; Paul Carey, Craig Burns, Seamus Long, John Frost; Ben Ryan, Peter White, Gary Dempsey, Paul Phelan; Peter Keegan, Sean Maguire.
Subs:- Aidan McGrath for Burns (75 mins); Dylan Mernagh for Ryan (87 mins).
LONGFORD TOWN: Craig Hyland; Noel Haverty, Des Hope, Jeff Flood, Thomas Crawley; Mark Salmon, Alan Kirby, Keith Gillespie, Jamie Duffy; Karl Bermingham, Gary Shaw.
Subs:- Austin Skelly for Shaw (injured, 42 mins); Michael Lee for Duffy (82 mins).
Referee: Keith Callanan (Cork).