Nine men Longford Town very nearly snatched a surprise draw against promotion contenders Monaghan United at Flancare Park on Saturday night last but in the end the numerical advantage aided the visitors as they clinched the win with two late goals.
Don Cowan scored the Longford equaliser in the 80th minute after they had fallen behind to a 25th minute Declan O’Brien penalty. Town defender Graham Dowling tangled with the Monaghan striker when he was through on goal and about to take a shot. Referee Phil Caschera had no other option but to award the spot-kick but the Dowling sending off appeared harsh.
Down to ten men it was going to be tough for the Town to get back into the game but Monaghan didn’t really assert any serious pressure or make the extra man count. The Town had enough possession but they proceeded to hoof the ball up the field and generally gave away possession too easily.
This latest defeat leaves 5th placed Longford just ahead of Waterford United by one point. The two sides meet next weekend at the RSC and if Town want to finish mid-table they will need to get something out of that game.
It was an uneventful opening period on Saturday last with neither side creating anything but then suddenly the game burst into life when Monaghan were awarded the penalty which was converted by Declan O’Brien. The Town battled hard to get back into contention and in the 34th minute Cowan got inside the box but his low cross was diverted out for a corner by former Longford player Phil Byrne. Monaghan had a few half-chances but nothing that troubled Town keeper Paul Hunt.
The visitors had plenty of the ball after the break but failed to add to O’Brien’s penalty. Tony Cousins changed things around and brought on Cathal Brady and Dan O’Reilly. Brady done well when introduced and was the creative player the Town needed. Just a minute on the pitch, Brady forced Monaghan defender Aidan Collins into making a timely interception when he floated in a neat cross from the left wing.
Declan O’Brien then had two chances for Monaghan in quick succession. First his effort from close range went wide and minutes later his goalbound strike was excellently blocked by Town defender Chris Deans. It was all Monaghan at this stage with O’Brien proving to be a real handful but for all their dominance they failed to find the target.
Whenever the Town had the ball they lacked ideas and imagination and they found themselves down to nine men in the 75th minute when Keith Gillespie was shown a straight red card for leading with the elbow. A Monaghan player had done something similar before that but it went unpunished.
It now seemed impossible that Longford would get anything out of the game but amazingly in the 80th minute they got back on level terms with a superb strike from Don Cowan. Monaghan though didn’t panic and they began to up the ante. Two minutes from the end of normal time Shane Grimes restored the lead with a well-taken goal and O’Brien sealed the win when finding the net deep into stoppage time.
LONGFORD TOWN: Paul Hunt, Graham Dowling, Chris Deans, Des Hope, Gary Cronin, Lee Roche, Keith Gillespie, Mark Salmon, Jack Morley, Don Cowan, Austin Skelly.
Subs:- Niall O’Reilly for Roche (27 mins); Cathal Brady for Morley (63 mins); Dan O’Reilly for Skelly (67 mins).
MONAGHAN UNITED: Gabriel Sava, Paul Whelan, Phil Byrne, Aidan Collins, Shane Grimes, John Reilly, Don Tierney, Eric Foley, Ryan Brennan, Declan O’Brien, Sean Brennan.
Subs:- Jason Marks for Tierney (65 mins); Alan Byrne for Whelan (77 mins).
Referee: Phil Caschera (Dublin).