Longford Town interim manager Daire Doyle. Photo: Ken Keenan
Longford Town play their last home game of the 2019 First Division league campaign when they entertain Gary Cronin’s Bray Wanderers in a game that could still have a bearing on the play off positions when the top four will be decided in the next couple of weeks.
As the table stands at the moment Shelbourne, Drogheda and the Town are bound for the top three places but Cabinteely in fourth could catch the Town for third place. Alternatively, if Cabinteely had a nightmare finish Bray could jump past them into fourth and that also would need a combination of favourable results.
Next Friday night Drogheda will be expecting a full house for the visit of a Shelbourne side who were odds on favourites to take the automatic move back to the Premier Division where a lot of supporters think they have a divine right to move up. They travel to Drogheda with a three points lead but Drogheda have a far superior goal difference and if they were to lose up there Drogheda would leapfrog them to top spot by virtue of a superior goal difference.
Our visitors Bray have a very tough run in to the end of the season. After their last game when they travelled to Tolka Park, they now have a trip to City Calling Stadium and in their final game they are at home to Drogheda United. One would have to say that Drogheda hold the keys to the final placings in this year's First Division, which has been the most exciting in many, many years.
Since the loss to Shelbourne, Neale Fenn is no longer the manager after departing to Cork City and Daire Doyle has taken over in a caretaker capacity. He has done a very good job and he seems to be getting the best out of his squad. Daire has brought in former Town player John Martin as his assistant and John will be a big help in the coming weeks as the Town chase a return to the top table of Irish football.
The Town's last game was away to Wexford where the lads came away with three points after a very workmanlike performance against the League's basement club . Goals from Dean Byrne after 26 mins and Aaron Dobbs on 51 mins sealed the victory.
The game marked the senior debut of Aaron McCabe who is playing superbly for our under 19s. He scored twice for the under 19s against Monaghan Utd/ Cavan FP at City Calling Stadium on Sunday last. With no game last weekend the Town had a week to rest injuries and prepare for the big game against on Saturday night.
Daire Doyle should have a near full strength squad for the exception of Aodh Dervin who will miss the game due to a one match suspension due to an accumulation of yellow cards, but it is better to have him out now than in the forthcoming play-off games. The young Town lad is playing out of his skin this season and is instrumental in all the good things that are happening in the team.
Sean Boyd, who missed the Wexford game for the same reason as Aodh, will be available for selection on Saturday night and the Shamrock Rovers loanee could step back into the team depending on what combination that Daire Doyle is going with.
There is no doubt that the game against Bray will be a real tough one. The Town played Bray twice this season and it's honours even with a win each. The first meeting was in early April and the Town came out on top in a two nil scoreline. The Town's goal on that occasion came from Michael McDonnell and Peter Hopkins. The second meeting was in the Carlisle grounds and this was a game that we threw away.
The home side took a very early lead with Daly opening the scoring after only 5 minutes but in form Dean Byrne equalised on the half hour. The Town took the lead in the 83rd minute with a Nolan OG. At this stage it looked as if all three points were on their way to Longford but Bray had different ideas. Bray equalised in the 88th minute with a goal from centre half Cantwell and they weren't finished at this stage and big defender Hugh Douglas got the winning goal in the fourth minute of extra time.
This was a big blow to Longford’s automatic promotion ambitions and it knocked the club back in the table and in confidence.
There are many connections with the Town in this Bray side with the Bray manager Gary Cronin having played and been part of the management team here.
Dylan McGlade, who starred for the Town last season, is playing for Bray but isn't as prolific in front of goals as when he was here in Longford. Philip Gannon, who left the club to join Bohemians, is also a very important member of the Bray team and this lad is capable of turning a game.
The Bray team have lots of experience starting with keeper Gabriel Sava who joined the club from Dundalk where he was understudy to Gary Rogers. In Paul Keegan they have an excellent midfielder who has played in England and also in the Premier Division here. They also have Derek Daly who has lots of Premier Division experience and they also have another former Waterford team mate of Derek's in Dean O'Halloran who is a fine player.
Former Shamrock Rovers player Sean Heaney, former Galway player Killian Cantwell and Hugh Douglas are all top class experienced players who are all good enough to be still playing in the Premier Division. No doubt that Dean Zambra will be hoping to do well against his former club.
Saturday night's game should be a tight affair. We are asking supporters to come out in big numbers for this final home league game of the 2019 season.
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