Longford Town’s excellent start to the season continued on Friday night last when they came away from Jackman Park with all three points in this top of the table clash. After putting in a poor display in the draw against SD Galway in their previous game the Town bounced back in superb fashion; making a team of ‘supposed’ stars, look ordinary.
Much has been made about Limerick and their overflowing pot of gold at their disposal but the Town showed that money can’t buy you instant success; once you get on the field it is 11 v 11. At the start of the season bets were made about Limerick going unbeaten in the league, would they have the First Division title wrapped up by the break in June and how many points they would finish ahead of the second placed team. At the moment they are currently third in the table behind Wexford Youths and four adrift of the unbeaten leaders Longford Town.
Maybe Limerick (who also lost to Waterford) will come good and win the league but the bit of disrespect shown to other teams in the First Division made Friday’s result even sweeter. The Town have shown that they are just as good as Limerick; they are top on merit and along with Sligo Rovers and St. Patrick’s Athletic are the only Airtricity League sides still unbeaten this season.
For the game against Limerick, the Town manager Tony Cousins reverted back to a 4-4-2 formation and it definitely worked for them. It was a good team performance but special mention must be given to Keith Gillespie who was so influential in taking control in the middle of the park. Town keeper Craig Hyland is another player that deserves a mention; pulling off a string of fantastic saves to deny Limerick.
Jackman Park hasn’t been a happy hunting ground for the Town and they knew they had to make a good start if they were to get anything out of the game. They dominated the opening twenty minutes but for all their possession they didn’t force Limerick keeper Barry Ryan into making a save.
As the game wore on Limerick began to come more into it and created a number of chances. The attendance had to wait though until the 27th minute for the first real save of the game; Denis Behan’s flick-on fell to Paudie Quinn but his powerful shot was well saved by Town keeper Hyland.
Longford can be thankful to the young netminder for keeping them in the game in the first half. In the 34th minute he pulled off an excellent double save; first he denied Behan and the rebound fell to Shaun Kelly and having landed on the ground, Hyland sprung up to produce a fantastic save to keep his goal intact.
The second half started very much like the first with the Town taking control. With eight minutes gone on the changeover they broke the deadlock; Thomas Crawley’s long throw-in from the left was flicked on by Gary Shaw to defender Noel Haverty and he headed past Ryan for his second goal in as many games.
Limerick were stunned and decided to make changes but instead of having the desired effect they continued to hoof the ball down the field. However, they did have a chance to get back into the game in the 61st minute but from Shane Guthrie’s flick-on, Quinn could only hook the ball over the bar from close range.
Then Town substitute Daniel Purdy could have doubled the visitors advantage but after lifting the ball over Ryan’s head, Kelly was on hand to clear the danger before it crossed the line. Behan then had a chance for Limerick but his header from Kelly’s cross just went inches wide.
After having claims for a handball turned down once for Limerick, referee Conor Fitzgerald wasn’t going to deny them a second time in the 80th minute when Noel Haverty turned from hero to villain; handling Corie Tracey’s cross and Kelly stepped up to beat Hyland from the spot kick.
But the Town hit back immediately and just two minutes later they regained the lead; Gary Shaw again the provider as he delivered the perfect cross for Colm James to head home.
As the clock ticked down Limerick tried hard to grab an equaliser but it was all in vain as the Town held firm to claim their first win at Jackman Park since August 2009. With just one game remaining in the first series of games (at home to Finn Harps on Saturday next), things are definitely going to plan for Longford Town who are looking like serious contenders for the First Division title and automatic promotion.
LIMERICK: Barry Ryan; Corie Tracey, Pat Purcell, Shane Guthrie, Andrew Bhandarkar; Steven McGann, Joe Gamble, Paudie Quinn, Shane Tracy, Shaun Kelly; Denis Behan.
Subs:- Rory Gaffney for Bhandarkar (55 mins); Sean Brosnan for Quinn (62 mins); Stephen Bradley for McGann (69 mins).
LONGFORD TOWN: Craig Hyland; Noel Haverty, Des Hope, Chris Deans, Thomas Crawley; Colm James, Mark Salmon, Keith Gillespie, Alan Kirby; Karl Bermingham, Gary Shaw.
Subs:- Austin Skelly for Bermingham (54 mins); Daniel Purdy for Skelly (injured, 65 mins).
Referee: Conor Fitzgerald