Trailing 2-0 at the break after producing a poor first half performance, Longford Town improved considerably on the changeover to stage a spirited comeback and the EA Sports Cup first round clash at Flancare Park on Monday night last appeared to be heading for extra-time after the home side levelled matters with goals from Mark Salmon (penalty, 71 mins) and Don Cowan (90 mins).
EA SPORTS CUP - Longford Town 2, UCD 3
The Cowan equaliser was no more than the home side deserved after creating quite a few chances on the changeover but their determined attempt to avoid defeat was all to no avail in the finish as Premier Division outfit UCD snatched a late winner through Graham Rusk who appeared to be offside when finding the back of the Longford net two minutes into stoppage time.
Fielding a strong side, the Town were hoping to make further progress in the League Cup after knocking out Athlone in the preliminary round but suffered a significant setback in the 7th minute when they fell behind. It was a very bad goal to give away from Longford’s point of view with Mark Langtry getting in a cross from the left and slack marking allowed Graham Rusk to hit the target from close range.
Don Cowan had a chance soon after to equalise for the Town. Aidan Roche played the ball into the striker but his tame effort was easily saved by UCD keeper Mark McGinley.
Town offered nothing in the first half and in the 23rd minute the students scored a second goal from a penalty. Alvin Rouse got a touch to the ball in his bid to avert a dangerous situation but referee Neil Doyle ruled that the Longford keeper had pushed Robbie Benson over in the box which appeared to be a harsh decision and Robbie Creevy made no mistake from the spot kick.
Five minutes later UCD wasted a glorious opportunity to extend their commanding lead. With Rouse stranded after advancing off his line, Benson put in Langtry who had the goals at his mercy but he blasted the ball over the bar when a third goal seemed certain.
Longford were facing a real uphill battle in the second half but they gradually got their act together and Aidan Roche should have done better with his effort in the 52nd minute when he squandered a decent chance of closing the gap.
Roche was the culprit again in the 62nd minute. Cowan got down the wing and played a superb ball into the box; Roche attempted to back heel the ball when it was easier to shoot and UCD were able to clear the danger.
It was all Longford at this stage as they tried to get back into the game. The UCD defence were being put under severe pressure and the home side were thrown a lifeline in the 71st minute when Creevy bundled Cowan over in the box as the students conceded a penalty.
Mark Salmon blasted the spot-kick past the UCD keeper McGinley and Town defender Paddy Collins thought he had equalised in the 77th minute but his glancing header bounced wide of the far post.
Don Cowan put Longford on level terms with time running out but UCD hit back to grab the winning goal in a most dramatic finish in earning a home tie against Shamrock Rovers in the second round of the EA Sports Cup.
LONGFORD TOWN: Alvin Rouse, Niall O’Reilly, Chris Deans, Paddy Collins, Gary Cronin, Aidan Roche, Thomas Hyland, Mark Salmon, Jacques Morley, Don Cowan, Austin Skelly.
Subs:- Paul Hunt for Rouse (injured, 30 mins); Cathal Brady for A Roche (63 mins); Lee Roche for Skelly (67 mins).
UCD: Mark McGinley, Paul O’Connor, Ciaran Nangle, Tomas Boyle, David O’Connor, Daniel Ledwith, Robbie Benson, Robbie Creevy, Graham Rusk, Stephen Doyle, Mark Langtry.
Subs:- James Kavanagh for Benson (69 mins); Dave Marshall for Ledwith (73 mins).
Referee: Neil Doyle (Dublin).