Mervue United came from behind to inflict a well deserved 3-1 defeat on Longford Town as the home side’s poor recent form continued at City Calling Stadium on Saturday evening.
Despite taking the lead against the run of play through David O’Sullivan in the opening half, Johnny Glynn’s side bounced back to level matters through Gary Shanahan within four minutes and then went on to scored twice in three second half minutes to claim a vital win.
Mervue’s Marc Ludden fired the first shot on target as Chris Bennion was alert to make the save on five minutes, while William Tyrell shot over at the other end following a Gary Shaw corner after 12 minutes.
The visitors should have taken the lead on 18 minutes as Willo McDonagh’s poor headed clearance went straight into the path of Stephen Walsh who tried to lob Bennion but saw his effort clear the home crossbar.
An early injury to defender Ross Kenny saw Tom King enter the fray after 20 minutes as Glynn had to reshuffle his defence. Shanahan went close just before the half hour mark when he shot wide from a good position following an excellent cross-field ball from Marc Ludden.
Derek O’Brien fired straight at Connor Gleeson after O’Sullivan’s blocked effort broke to the winger inside the box before the home side hit the front. Gary Shaw delivered a perfect cross from the right wing to pick out O’Sullivan who had pulled away from his marker to powerfully head beyond Gleeson on 37 minutes.
Mervue responded well and were back level when the home side failed to clear Jason Molloy’s corner and Ryan Manning’s shot was deflected onto the post with Shanahan tapping home the loose ball from two yards for 1-1.
Walsh set up Manning with a neat piece of play two minutes after the resumption but Bennion saved the youngster’s effort, while Gleeson gathered a Keith Gillespie volley at the other end. Bennion did well saving another Manning shot on 55 minutes and a minute later Shanahan saw his low shot from the edge of the box hit the outside of the post.
Bennion produced another top drawer save on 66 minutes when he pushed away Manning’s low freekick from just outside the box after Walsh had been hauled down. Gleeson saved another Gillespie shot and Longford’s Corrie Treacy headed away a dangerous Jason Molloy cross from under the crossbar as the game was hanging in the balance.
Shanahan tested Bennion once again as the keeper came out on top after 74 minutes but four minutes later the visitors hit the front in style. Molloy picked up the ball in midfield before moving across the park and releasing a beautiful ball for Shanahan to run onto from the left and he brilliantly lobbed the advancing Bennion for 2-1.
A stunned Longford were 3-1 down three minutes later as the tireless Walsh finally got his reward when Shanahan turned provider releasing the striker through and he fired into the corner past Bennion with nine minutes remaining to seal the points.
It was almost 4-1 before the end as the visitors continued to push for more goals as Walsh laid the ball into the path of Gary Curran but the midfielder dragged his shot wide of Bennion’s left hand post.
This result really opens up the First Division title race as Longford’s nine point lead has now evaporated and only four points separate the top four in the First Division.
Longford Town: Chris Bennion; Corrie Treacy, Willo McDonagh (Keith Quinn 57), Glen O’Connor (Brian McCarthy 46), Willie Tyrell; Josh O’Hanlon, Keith Gillespie, Rhys Gorman, Derek O’Brien; Gary Shaw (Dean Ebbe 74), David O’Sullivan.
Subs not used: Paul Hunt (GK), Daniel Purdy, David O’Neill, Gavin Doyle.
Booking: Glen O’Connor 15, Derek O’Brien 90.
Mervue Utd: Connor Gleeson; Paul Sinnott, Ross Kenny (Tom King 20), Martin Conneely, Marc Ludden; Gary Shanahan, Gary Curran, Noel Varley (Barry O’Mahoney 91), Jason Molloy; Stephen Walsh, Ryan Manning (Brendan Lavelle 90)
Subs not used: Aaron McDonagh, Alex Lee, Joe Woods, Conor O’Malley (GK)
Booked – Jason Molloy 32, Ryan Manning 89.
Referee: Andrew Mullally (Waterford)
Attendance – 395
Extratime.ie Man of the Match – Stephen Walsh (Mervue Utd) Tireless display capped with a well taken goal.