The First Division’s top of the table clash failed to live up to expectations as leaders Longford Town and Mervue United played out a lacklustre draw in City Calling Stadium on Saturday night.
In the end Longford will be the happier of the two sides because for long periods of the game they were under the cosh with Mervue playing the better of the football. The Galway side just lacked the cutting edge up front to come away with the win.
Mervue bossed the early exchanges. Noel Varley’s low drive just went wide in the third minute. But totally against the run of play they found themselves behind in the 12th minute. Keith Gillespie’s exquisite long ball found David O’Sullivan and he headed over Conor Gleeson for his 6th goal in five games.
The visitors very nearly got back on level terms in the 15th minute but Town keeper Chris Bennion did well to make a save from the lively Brendan Lavelle.
The game petered out a bit after that and both sides failed to create anything of note. In the 22nd minute former Town player Gary Curran’s effort was deflected out for a corner by Town defender Willie Tyrell.
Longford were not in the game at all and their next chance on goal didn’t come until the 31st minute with Gary Shaw firing over.
10 minutes later Mervue had another chance; another former Town player Tom King flashing his shot across the face of the goal. Just before half-time a mix-up between defender Tyrell and Bennion could’ve proven costly for the home side but fortunately for the pair danger was averted.
Despite the warning signs in the first-half the home side continued to sit back and invite Mervue onto them and the visitors deservedly drew level 10 minutes after the break. Jason Molloy took a shot from just inside the box, the ball was cleared but only back to the feet of Molloy and he made no mistake this time.
The next few minutes there were a number of bookings as both sides failed to get any decent passes together. The next effort on goal came in the 69th minute when Gillespie took the ball down on the chest and hit a stunning strike from about 25 yards out.
In the 73rd minute former Mervue United player Ethan Nkololo did very well to find Josh O’Hanlon but with Stephen Walshe and Gary Kelly guarding him carefully he hesitated a little and instead of playing the ball out wide to Daniel Purdy he decided to take on the two defenders and there was always going to be one winner and the ball was cleared.
Both sides were cagey in the final 10 minutes and neither of them went looking for a winner. The most excitement of the second-half came in stoppage time when Longford had chances to snatch a dramatic winner.
In the second minute of additional Nkololo’s shot was parried by Gleeson, seconds later Josh O’Hanlon forced a corner and then right at the end O’Sullivan’s header was cleared off the line by Stephen Walshe. Mervue held on for a point they richly deserved.
Longford Town: Chris Bennion; Chris Deans, Willo McDonagh, Brian McCarthy, Willie Tyrell; Daniel Purdy (David O’Neill 81), Keith Gillespie (Gavin Doyle 86), Mark Salmon, Ethan Nkololo; Gary Shaw (Josh O’Hanlon 57), David O’Sullivan.
Subs: Paul Hunt, David O’Neill, Gavin Doyle, Keith Quinn, Aaron Brilly.
Booking: Keith Gillespie (66), Josh O’Hanlon (67), Willie Tyrell (89).
Mervue United: Conor Gleeson; Joe Woods, Michael McSweeney, Martin Conneely (Gary Kelly 20), Stephen Walshe; Jason Molloy, Gary Curran, Noel Varley, Tom King; Ryan Manning, Brendan Lavelle.
Subs used: Shane Keogh, Mike Elwood, Gary Shanahan, Kenny Farrell, Alex Lee, Oscar Sibanda.
Booking: Joe Woods (63).
Referee: James McKell (Tipperary)
Extratime.ie Man of the Match: Stephen Walshe (Mervue United).