Two early goals gave Longford Town their first win in three games when proving too strong for Mervue United at Flancare Park on Saturday evening last and thus kept up the pressure on First Division leaders Limerick.
What a difference a week makes. Seven days ago the Town fell to third in the table and were trailing Limerick by six points. With this win over Mervue and Limerick being held to a draw by Finn Harps the gap is now four.
With six games to go there is definitely going to be more twists and turns in this title race, though Limerick are in pole position. By winning on Saturday the Town have given themselves a chance but they know they cannot afford any more slip-ups.
It wasn’t a great game but the Town won’t mind about the performance as it’s all about getting results at this stage in the season. In the two previous games between the sides there was 15 goals scored with the Town winning on both occasions, 4-2 and 5-4.
Mervue always put it up to Longford and are hard to get results against. And the visitors created the first goal opportunity of the game in the 7th minute when Michael McSweeney played the ball into Pat Hoban but with only Town keeper Craig Hyland to beat he put his shot wide.
That miss was to prove costly for the Galway side as Longford launched an immediate counter-attack and a misunderstanding between former Town player Tom King and his goalkeeper Conor Gleeson led to Gary Shaw breaking the deadlock in the 8th minute.
The goal settled Longford and they went in search of another one and that came in the 15th minute. Daniel Purdy hit the target with a speculative lob from over 30 yards out, which actually came off his shin, but it completely caught Gleeson by surprise as the ball ended up in the back of the net.
Longford then had two great chances in quick succession to add to their tally; Shaw saw his effort come back off the crossbar in the 17th minute and while the ball fell kindly to Tony Griffiths his shot hit the post.
In the 27th minute Griffiths did well to shrug off the challenge of Ethan Nkololo but his finish let him down and oppposing keeper Gleeson was able to gather the ball. Longford were in complete control and started to pass the ball around with ease.
In the 35th minute Purdy decided to try his luck again but this time the ball sailed over the bar.
After being outplayed for the majority of the first half, King had a chance for Mervue just before the break but his effort was way off target.
Longford created the first real chance of the second half but Shaw was unable to add to his earlier goal when he should have scored. In the 57th minute Alan Kirby played a neat one-two with Michael Lee and got down to the endline but there was no one in the box to meet his cross.
Mervue had a great opportunity to pull a goal back in the 63rd minute. Nkololo broke down the wing and crossed the ball to King who was just inside the box and he played the ball back to Jason Molloy but his shot was blocked. While the ball came back to Molloy, Town keeper Hyland did well to clear the danger.
Daniel Purdy had another effort for Longford minutes later but his effort dipped over the bar. Clear-cut chances were then limited as Longford were content in keeping possession and not allowing Mervue back into the game.
The Town have no game this weekend due to the FAI Cup but the last midlands derby of the season away to Athlone on Friday week has now become one of the most important fixtures between the neighbouring clubs in recent years.
LONGFORD TOWN: Craig Hyland; Mark Salmon, Willo McDonagh, Des Hope, Michael Lee; Robert Bayly, Keith Gillespie, Daniel Purdy, Alan Kirby; Tony Griffiths, Gary Shaw. Subs:- Thomas Crawley for Lee (69 mins); Karl Bermingham for Bayly (72 mins); Chris Deans for McDonagh (78 mins).
MERVUE UNITED: Conor Gleeson; Stephen Walsh, Michael McSweeney, Mark Ludden, Tom King; Noel Varley, Mike Elwood, Gary Kelly, Ethan Nkololo; Jason Molloy, Pat Hoban. Subs:- Shane Keogh for Varley (76 mins); Jean Biansumba for Nkololo (86 mins); Brian Connolly for Elwood (86 mins). Referee: Jim McKell (Tipperary).