While Longford Town scored a deserved win over Wexford Youths at Flancare Park on Thursday evening last and were cruising at one stage thanks to goals from Austin Skelly (24 mins) and Cathal Brady (50 mins), the visitors were thrown a lifeline when substitute Danny Furlong converted a penalty in the 73rd minute and the remainder of the game was a tense affair.
But Longford managed to hold out in collecting three vital points in their push for promotion and broke the bogey of finally achieving a home win over Wexford in the League of Ireland. Even without injured central defender Chris Deans, the Town enjoyed a significant superiority and appear capable of competing with the best teams in the First Division.
Mark Salmon was a real driving force in central midfield and linked up effectively with Keith Gillespie, both of whom made a big impact against Wexford Youths, while right winger Cathal Brady and striker Austin Skelly also figured prominently apart from scoring the crucial goals.
While the Town continue to make progress and are playing attractive football under the guidance of Tony Cousins, now in his second season as manager, bigger attendances at the home games would be a welcome boost for all involved with the club and just over 200 spectators gathered at Flancare Park last week. Surely the players deserve greater support for the positive performances they are currently producing and hopefully that will be the case for the FAI Cup third round clash against Finn Harps this Friday night.
Longford made a strong start against Wexford with Cathal Brady and Austin Skelly posing problems and after Jacques Morley had a well struck free-kick saved by opposing keeper Packie Holden, the deadlock was eventually broken in the 24th minute.
Skelly found the back of the net with a close range header after connecting with a Keith Gillespie free-kick and Holden then made another couple of good saves to stop shots from Skelly and the other Longford striker Don Cowan.
But the Wexford netminder was almost punished for a mistake in the 37th minute, dropping a corner from Morley, only for Skelly to blast the ball over the bar. Thus the Town had to be content with a 1-0 lead at the break when they should have put the issue beyond all doubt but a second goal eventually materialised with five minutes gone in the second half.
Excellent work by Skelly, cutting in from the right wing, saw him weave his way through the Wexford defence in creating the opportunity for Brady to direct the ball into the corner of the net from a tight angle and soon after Cowan shot straight at the Wexford keeper when a third goal was there for the taking.
The visitors then launched a rare attack with Danny Furlong blasting a shot just wide of the target and the action soon switched to the other end of the pitch with Town central defender Paddy Collins having a header saved by Holden.
Longford survived another anxious moment when Wexford striker Darragh Walshe shot narrowly wide in the 71st minute and soon after the troublesome Walshe was impeded in the box by opposing defender Des Hope and referee James McKell showed no hesitancy in awarding a penalty with Furlong making no mistake from the spot kick.
In an immediate counter-attack, Town substitute Lee Roche (who had replaced the injured Skelly) almost scored but was denied by Wexford defender Karl Keogh who made a timely block. A few minutes later the ‘Youths’ went close to snatching the equaliser when Ben Ryan shot narrowly wide and all of a sudden Longford looked in danger of letting victory slip from their grasp.
But the home side stood firm for the rest of the game to consolidate their slender advantage in making hard work of the win and while Wexford had a half-chance of stealing a point in stoppage time, Walshe blasted the ball wide after capitalising on a mistake by Town centre-half Collins.
LONGFORD TOWN (4-4-2): Paul Hunt; Thomas Hyland, Des Hope, Paddy Collins, Gary Cronin; Cathal Brady, Keith Gillespie, Mark Salmon, Jacques Morley; Austin Skelly, Don Cowan.
Subs:- Aidan Roche for Morley (half-time); Craig Walsh for Cowan (66 mins); Lee Roche for Skelly (injured, 70 mins).
WEXFORD YOUTHS (4-5-1): Packie Holden; Shane Nolan, Karl Keogh, Martin Kehoe, Dean Broaders; Muzzy Mullen, Patsy Malone, Craig Wall, Greg Yelverton, Ben Ryan; Darragh Walshe.
Subs:- Kevin Rowe for Mullen (half-time); Danny Furlong for Yelverton (half-time); David Grincell for Malone (87 mins).
Referee: James McKell (Tipperary).