A stunning second half comeback saw Longford Town overturn a 3-0 half-time deficit to defeat Mervue United in a nine goal thriller at Fahy’s Field on Friday night last and thus consolidate their place at the top of the First Division table.
It was Mark Salmon who scored the winning goal from the penalty spot deep into stoppage time but it was substitute Alan Kirby who definitely turned the game around when he was introduced for the second half. Kirby scored one and made two in an excellent second half display from the Town.
This was a terrific advertisement for the league and will the Town look back at this game as the defining moment of their season? The small number of supporters who were in Galway certainly got value for their money with goals and cards galore.
Mervue will feel aggrieved not to have come away with something. It turned out to be a terrible night for them and they finished the game with nine men after goalscorers Pat Hoban and Tom King were sent-off.
Mervue started the game very well and had the first chance on goal in the 2nd minute; Jason Molloy forcing a good save from Craig Hyland. Five minutes later Town defender Des Hope was caught out and the ball fell to Alan Murphy but his effort sailed over the bar.
Longford’s first and only chance in the early stages came in the 11th minute when Thomas Crawley’s stinging shot was saved by Mervue keeper Conor O’Malley.
Mervue took the lead in the 19th minute when Hoban got the better of both Des Hope and Chris Deans and was through on goal when he was deemed to have been taken down. Referee Phil Caschera looked at his linesman to see if the foul was inside or outside the box and a penalty was awarded and Hoban made no mistake in converting the spot-kick.
Town keeper Hyland was forced into making another fine save in the 24th minute; this time denying Ethan Nkololo. Two minutes later the home side doubled their lead when Murphy’s shot was parried by Hyland and Hoban made no mistake from close range.
A memorable first half got even better for the Galway side four minutes from the break when Nkololo made it 3-0 after receiving the ball from Murphy.
The Town were completely devoid of ideas in that opening half and after being out of the game for so long had a chance just before the break when Mervue keeper O’Malley produced an excellent save to deny Colm James.
Town manager Tony Cousins decided to make a change at half-time and brought on Alan Kirby for Keith Gillespie. The substitute made a big impact in that second half and he got the comeback underway in the 56th minute when his free-kick from the left was headed home by defender Willo McDonagh who had signed from Monaghan United.
Three minutes later and the Town pulled another goal back when Mark Ludden’s backpass was pounced on by Michael Lee and his shot was put into the net by the unfortunate Murphy as Mervue conceded an own goal.
Former Town player Tom King restored the two goal advantage for the home side in the 65th minute when he volleyed home a corner. But then Mervue were reduced to 10 men two minutes later when Hoban was shown two yellow cards in quick succession – his second for remonstrating with the referee.
It really was end-to-end stuff and the Town got their third goal in the 71st minute when Gary Shaw’s low drive was finished to the net by Alan Kirby. Longford were now playing with confidence and had the bit between their teeth and Mervue were dealt another blow in the 74th minute when King was shown a straight red card.
The Town pressed hard to get an equaliser but the nine Mervue players on the pitch defended resolutely. As the board went up to show there would be four minutes of additional time played the Town knew what they had to do. And seconds later Shaw headed home Kirby’s free-kick to level the game.
There was more late drama in Galway as deep into stoppage time the Town were awarded a penalty after Martin Conneely fouled Tony Griffiths (another signing from Monaghan United) in the box. Mark Salmon was left with the pressure kick and he coolly slotted it home to give Longford Town a win that they had scarcely deserved but one they worked so hard for in a revitalised second half display.
MERVUE UNITED: Conor O’Malley; James Casserley, Mike Elwood, Martin Conneely Shane Keogh, Ethan Nkololo, Noel Varley, Alan Murphy, Mark Ludden; Jason Molloy, Pat Hoban.
Subs:- Gary Kelly for Murphy (58 mins); Tom King for Molloy (61 mins); Stephen Walsh for Keogh (76 mins).
LONGFORD TOWN: Craig Hyland; Noel Haverty, Chris Deans, Des Hope, Michael Lee; Colm James, Mark Salmon, Keith Gillespie, Thomas Crawley; Karl Bermingham, Gary Shaw.
Subs:- Willo McDonagh for Hope (22 mins); Alan Kirby for Gillespie (half-time); Tony Griffiths for Haverty (83 mins).
Referee: Phil Caschera (Dublin).