Longford Town’s title hopes suffer another setback

Longford Town’s dismal run of late continued at Flancare Park on Saturday evening last as they crashed to a disappointing defeat against fellow promotion contenders Waterford United.

Since the Town made the dramatic comeback against Mervue United at the end of June they have drawn two; against Athlone Town and Wexford Youths and lost against Waterford. They are now three points behind leaders Limerick and this latest setback means Waterford have moved to within one point of Longford in the battle for promotion to the Premier Division.

The winning goal came 10 minutes after the break and was a little against the run of play after the Town had started the second half brightly. Like so many previous games Town once again rued not putting away the chances they created.

It really was a woeful night for them and they finished the game with nine men after Alan Kirby was shown a second yellow card in the 90th minute and two minutes later Colm James was sent-of for dissent. Waterford also had a player sent-off; Ben Ryan receiving a second yellow in the 86th minute for a foul on Daniel Purdy.

Keith Gillespie wasn’t available on Saturday and he was sorely missed in the middle of the park where there was no creativity while up front it was evident yet again that Longford’s biggest problem is their lack of a prolific goalscorer. In the last three games they have scored just one goal and that was a free-kick from Daniel Purdy against Wexford Youths.

Chances were few and far between in the first half. Gary Dempsey had a free-kick in the 6th minute that was cleared by the Town defence and then one minute later former Waterford player Karl Bermingham forced a very good save out of Packie Holden after being played in by Purdy.

Although the Town enjoyed plenty of possession they failed to create anything of note. The next chance fell to the visitors in the 18th minute when Dylan Mernagh headed Dempsey’s corner wide.

Town netminder Craig Hyland was forced into making a save in the 26th minute, pushing Peter Keegan’s cross away to safety. Six minutes later Keegan tried his luck from a tight angle but once again Hyland made a good save.

In the final five minutes of the first half both sides had chances to break the deadlock - Mark Salmon was just off target for Longford while Sean Maguire went close for Waterford with the home keeper Hyland making a good save to keep his net intact.

The Town started the second half well and had a great opportunity to open the scoring in the 50th minute. Daniel Purdy’s free-kick was kept in play by Des Hope and the ball fell to Gary Shaw but Waterford keeper Holden made a great save to deny the Longford striker.

Five minutes later and the deadlock was broken. Town defender Noel Haverty gave away a silly free-kick near the sideline and Gary Dempsey floated the ball into the box to connect with the head of Peter White who found the roof of the net.

Waterford were boosted by the goal and went in search of a second to the put the issue beyond all doubt. In the 58th minute Keegan’s pass found Mernagh but Haverty did very well to block his effort.

In the 64th minute the Town came very close to equalising when Thomas Crawley’s cross was met by Bermingham but his header was cleared off the line by Waterford defender Craig Burns. Bermingham turned provider in the 75th minute but Stephen Mulcahy and Burns combined well to clear the danger. Surprisingly Bermingham was substituted one minute later much to the amazement of the home supporters because he was proving the biggest threat up front.

Four minutes from the end Waterford were reduced to ten men when Ben Ryan was shown a second yellow card for a foul on Purdy. With the numerical advantage the Town pressed for an equaliser but the Blues stood firm.

In the 90th minute Waterford should have sealed the victory. Maguire directed the ball into Keegan and with Hyland out of goal the striker somehow shot wide. In an immediate Longford counter-attack Alan Kirby went down in the box but he received a second yellow card for supposedly diving and was subsequently sent-off.

The late drama continued two minutes into stoppage time when Colm James received a straight red card for dissent to complete a miserable night for Longford Town as their hopes of winning the First Division title suffered a severe setback.

LONGFORD TOWN: Craig Hyland; Noel Haverty, Willo McDonagh, Des Hope, Thomas Crawley; Craig Walsh, Mark Salmon, Karl Bermingham, Alan Kirby; Gary Shaw, Daniel Purdy.

Subs:- Tony Griffiths for Walsh (70 mins); Colm James for Bermingham (76 mins).

WATERFORD UNITED: Packie Holden; Stephen Mulcahy, Craig Burns, Seamus Long, John Frost; Ben Ryan, Peter White, Gary Dempsey, Dylan Mernagh; Peter Keegan, Sean Maguire.

Sub:- Paul Phelan for Mernagh (78 mins).

Referee: Sean Grant (Wexford).