Longford Town defender Des Hope made the perfect return from injury, scoring two goals as the Town moved back to the top of the First Division table with their fourth win of the season.
For just 24 hours, the Town had lost their position to Limerick but they regained top spot with a hard fought win over Waterford United.
It had looked good for the Town 10 minutes from time when Hope grabbed his second goal of the game to put his side 3-1 in front but a stunning strike from Gary Dempsey in the 89th minute made for a nail-biting finish.
In the three minutes of additional time that was allotted at the end of the game Waterford went in search of an equaliser but Town held out to record another win.
It was very much a game of two halves; Town were the best side in the first while Waterford improved drastically after the break and the Town were content to sit back and soak up the pressure, though that nearly cost them.
The game was barely two minutes old when the Town broke the deadlock. Mark Salmon played the ball into Colm James who found the back of the net from just inside the box.
After seven minutes, the diminutive Thomas Crawley rose high to meet Alan Kirby’s corner but he headed straight at Blues keeper Packie Holden.
Waterford native Kirby had a chance to score against his former club in the 13th minute but his shot hit the side netting after being played in by Karl Bermingham. It was all Longford Town as the visitors just couldn’t get into the game.
In the 20th minute Holden had to be alert to save at the feet of Daniel Purdy. Three minutes later James could have got his second of the game, but his shot from 25 yards out just whizzed wide.
Waterford came into the game in patches but rarely threatened and Town keeper Craig Hyland wasn’t forced into making a single save.
Despite dominating the first half, the Town only held a slender 1-0 lead going in at the break, but whatever words of wisdom Waterford manager Paul O’Brien said to his players at half-time worked – they were a completely different proposition after the break.
On the hour mark they were on level terms; Gary Dunphy picked up the ball and from about 35 yards out unleashed a fantastic strike past Hyland, who had no chance. Suddenly it was game on.
After being seemingly out of the game during the opening exchanges of the second half, the Town restored the lead in the 62nd minute. A Noel Haverty effort was cleared off the line but the ball fell to Hope and he made no mistake from close range.
Nine minutes later Hope had a chance to grab his second but he headed wide from a Kirby free-kick and Gary Dempsey should’ve done better with a dead ball in the 78th minute, but his effort was easily saved by Hyland.
As Waterford continued to press for an equaliser, the Town went up the other end and made it 3-1 as Hope got his head to a Kirby free. It looked like game over at that point and Town sat back and allowed Waterford to come at them.
However, one minute from the end of normal time the Blues pulled a goal back.
Dunphy’s goal was exceptional but Dempsey screamed of some ‘anything you can do I can do better’. The midfielder scored with a superb strike from distance to leave a tense final few minutes.
Waterford pushed forward in the hope to claim a dramatic point but the Town held on – a result that maintains their 100% record after four First Division games.
Longford Town: Craig Hyland; Noel Haverty, Des Hope, Chris Deans, Thomas Crawley; Colm James, Mark Salmon, Alan Kirby (James O’Brien, 87); Karl Bermingham, Gary Shaw (Jamie Duffy, 76), Daniel Purdy (Michael Lee 67).
Subs not used: Gary Cronin, Graham Dowling, Sean Skelly, Paul Hunt.
Bookings: Bermingham (83).
Waterford Utd: Packie Holden; Paul Carey (Peter White, 87), Craig Burns, Dylan Mernagh, Jamie Cross; Ben Ryan (Aidan McGrath, 65), Peter Higgins (Sean Maguire, 65), Gary Dempsey, Gary Dunphy, Paul Phelan; Willie John Kiely.
Subs not used: Peter White, Sean Maguire, Aidan McGrath, David Breen, Peter Keegan, Robbie Hughes.
Bookings: WJ Kiely (90+2).
Referee: Darren Coombes.
Attendance: 400 (estimate).
extratime.ie Man of the Match: Des Hope (Longford Town): His brace proved to be the difference.