Longford Town substitute Gary Shaw came off the bench just after the break to head home the only goal of a poor game on his debut for Tony Cousin’s side with 17 minutes remaining at Fahy’s Field on Friday night.
The visitors came into the game as slight favourites and proved the bookies right as they could have added to that single goal with a number of good opportunities particularly in the second half when they looked the more threatening side.
It was a forgettable opening half, the highlight of which was an injury to referee Darren Coombes who went over on his ankle and had to be replaced by fourth official Robert Harvey who went on to have a fine game.
After an uneventful opening ten minutes Longford fashioned a great chance on 11 minutes as Alan Kirby and Keith Gillespie interchanged passes with the former Man Utd player finding himself with just Ronan Forde to beat. But the home ‘keeper made a good stop, deflecting the ball into the side netting for the first corner of the game.
Just before the half hour mark Mervue’s Pat Hoban played a wonderful ball over the Longford full back Colm James for Etanda Nkololo to sprint onto, but his fierce shot was palmed over the crossbar by an alert Craig Hyland.
There ended the first half for reporting. Thankfully the second half got slightly better for goalmouth action and Longford showed their intent straight from the off. Austin Skelly delivered an excellent ball into the danger area straight from the tip-off which Mark Salmon met, but he could only glance his header over Forde’s crossbar.
Goal-scorer Shaw entered the fray 11 minutes later as another new recruit, Jamie Duffy, made way for the former Bray striker. Longford should have hit the front on the hour mark after a neat flick from Karl Bermingham set Kirby up but the midfielder hit a weak shot into the arms of a grateful Forde from a great central position.
A minute later and the visitors were pressing again with Skelly setting up Salmon but his low struck effort was comfortably gathered once again by Forde. Longford left back Thomas Crawley was next to get a clear sight of Forde but he also fired his effort straight into the arms of the young keeper who was having a good debut for his new club.
Another dangerous ball into the box from Kirby following a badly cleared corner kick was headed out for another corner by Damien O’Rourke who did well, surrounded by three Longford players looking to get that vital touch.
The home side made their first change on 72 minutes as Peter Dravins replaced David Goldbey but the visitors struck for the winner a minute later. With, seemingly, no danger present, Crawley launched a long throw into the six yard box which picked out the head of Shaw and the big striker directed the ball past a stranded Forde who had come to collect the ball.
Mervue captain Mike Elwood almost bundled the ball home at the other end from a dangerous Philip Keegan ball into the area but the ball was hacked clear by the Longford defence on 76 minutes.
Mervue went chasing the game in the final ten minutes without ever creating any clear cut chances, forcing a number of corners and free-kicks. Hoban pulled one of those free-kicks back to Noel Varley whose first time shot flew wide with the aid of a deflection. From the corner O’Rourke couldn’t get a head on the ball in front of Hyland’s goal as Chris Deans cleared the danger.
Longford should have doubled their lead in the final minute as Shaw had a good chance saved by Forde, while Salmon once again missed the target from the loose ball, hitting the side netting with the goal at his mercy. Longford continued to press in injury time as Kirby got forward and into a good position only to see his deflected shot once again well saved by debutant Forde.
One amazing stat from the game was that no player from either side received a booking, don’t know was that just good officialdom or just the way the game was played but we’ll give this one to the official’s on this occasion.
A good start to the campaign for Tony Cousins side who will head into next week’s midlands derby with Athlone in confident mood, while Johnny Glynn’s side will welcome back the suspended trio of Alan Murphy, Jason Molloy and Stephen Walsh for their trip north to Finn Harps as both sides will be looking for their first points of the season in Finn Park next week.
Mervue Utd : Ronan Forde; James Casserley, Gary Kelly, Mike Elwood, Damien O’Rourke; Noel Varley, Philip Keegan (Daniel Tully 81), Alex Lee, Pat Hoban, Etanda Nkololo, David Goldbey (Peter Dravins 72)
Subs not used: Kenny Farrell, Barry McEntee, Shane Keogh, Michael Collins, Brian O’Donoghue (GK)
Longford Town: Craig Hyland; Colm James, Thomas Cawley, Chris Deans, Noel Haverty; Alan Kirby, Mark Salmon, Keith Gillespie, Jamie Duffy (Gary Shaw ’56); Karl Bermingam, Austin Skelly (Daniel Purdy ’80).
Subs not used: Graham Dowling, Sean Skelly, Jacques Morley, James O’Brien, Paul Hunt (GK).
Referee: Darren Coombes (replaced by 4th official Robert Harvey 20 mins)
Extratime.ie Man of the Match: Gary Shaw (Longford Town).