A first half goal from defender Noel Haverty was enough to give Longford Town all three points against Wexford Youths at Flancare Park on Saturday night last and in doing so restored their four point advantage at the top of the First Division table but they made hard work of the win.
Haverty’s fourth goal of the season moves him up to joint top scorer at the club alongside Colm James, as many goals as all the Town strikers combined. Haverty definitely has been one of manager Tony Cousins best new signings this season and is really making his presence felt, both in defence and attack.
This result was only the second time the Town have kept a clean sheet this season; their first was in the very first league game away to Mervue United. It could have been very different though at the end when Wexford Youths went in search of an equaliser and had claims for a penalty turned down in the 90th minute when Tom Elmes shot appeared to strike a Town player’s arm in a crowded box. The referee Darren Coombes was in a decent position to see the incident and no penalty was awarded.
The game should have been wrapped up by the Town long before that but some terrible finishing in the second half meant there would be a nervy final few minutes as the visitors tried to get something out of the game.
It wasn’t a great spectacle and the chances that were squandered, especially by the home side, left a lot to be desired. There wasn’t too many decent scoring chances created in a scrappy first half. Mark Salmon and Gary Shaw both had efforts that they should have done better with for the Town while Paul Malone and Tom Elmes came close for the visitors. Elmes, in particular, should have found the target with his effort in the 27th minute but he shot just over the bar.
Longford started to apply the pressure just around the half hour mark and forced three corners in a row. The third one was lucky for them because they opened the scoring from it; Keith Gillespie with the corner that was finished by Haverty. Although a Wexford defender tried to clear the ball the linesman who had a good view saw that it had crossed the line.
The Town dominated the opening stages of the second half and should have doubled their advantage in the 55th minute but defender Jeff Flood blasted his shot over the bar from a few yards out. The home side enjoyed plenty of possession but squandered several scoring chances.
In the 71st minute Jamie Duffy wasted a glorious opportunity. Mark Salmon did well to side-step a Wexford defender and he played the ball wide to Duffy but he hit the sidenetting instead of the back of the net with his close range strike.
Thomas Crawley wasted another great chance for the Town in the 73rd minute. From a Wexford corner Alan Kirby broke and played the ball out wide to Michael Lee, who fired a fantastic cross into the box but from about six yards out Crawley directed his header wide when a goal seemed certain.
Another Longford chance was missed in the 75th minute. Gary Shaw got possession but instead of playing the ball over to Crawley he decided to take a shot himself and his weak effort was easily saved by Wexford keeper Graham Doyle.
The Town were nearly left to rue those missed chances as in the closing stages of the game Wexford Youths made a determined bid to get back on level terms. In the 83rd minute Shane Nolan was unlucky that his strike didn’t find the target while in the 90th minute a shot by Elmes appeared to be handled in a crowded box by a Town player. But no penalty was awarded and the loose ball came back to the Wexford striker who shot inches wide.
Despite piling on the pressure in stoppage time the visitors just could not get that elusive equaliser and Longford Town held out for another valuable three points in their quest for the First Division title and automatic promotion to the Premier Division.
LONGFORD TOWN: Craig Hyland; Noel Haverty, Jeff Flood, Des Hope, Thomas Crawley; Colm James, Mark Salmon, Keith Gillespie, Alan Kirby; Gary Shaw, Jamie Duffy.
Subs:- Michael Lee for James (injured, half-time); Austin Skelly for Shaw (77 mins); Sean Skelly for Kirby (90 mins).
WEXFORD YOUTHS: Graham Doyle; Mark Phelan, CJ Browne, Jamie Carr, James Dermody; Dean Broaders, Craig Wall, Paul Malone, Shane Nolan, Aidan Keenan; Tom Elmes.
Subs:- Danny Furlong for Broaders (41mins); Shane Dempsey for Dermody (69 mins); James Scallon for Browne (84 mins).
Referee: Darren Coombes (Dublin).