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Mervue United take a one goal lead into the second leg of the Airtricity League Promotion playoff in Longford next week but the Galway side will be disappointed they didn’t add more to the 1-0 scoreline.
Jason Molloy’s superb effort on 14 minutes was the only goal of an entertaining game that had the 607 people in attendance glued to the pitch.
Longford Town played most of the game with only ten men as Corie Treacy received a straight red card on 26 minutes. The captain made a reckless challenge on Mervue striker Michael Duffy and referee Keith Callanan had no hesitation in reaching for his back pocket.
There must be something in water down in Galway because amazingly Treacy has been sent off three times in the city of the Tribes this season.
The visitors started with Treacy as a holding midfielder in a 4-1-3-2 formation that wasn’t working from the outset.
Gary Shanahan’s pace down the right side caused the Town all sorts of problems and the young forward hit the bar after only four minutes.
His strike never looked like going in, but it would be a sign of things to come from the hosts as Mervue looked to exploit Longford’s weaknesses down both flanks.
On ten minutes a brilliant first-time volleyed through ball from Ryan Manning sent Duffy away but the striker’s finish was weak and easily saved by Chris Bennion.
Manning’s technique and vision to execute the long diagonal pass it what we’ve become used to seeing from the 17-year-old at Fahy’s Field
The goal itself came from nothing. Molloy was loitering on the left wing as a simple pass came his way and, with a first-time strike, he deliberately and exquisitely leaned back to whip the ball with his right foot into the top corner from all of 30 yards. Bennion failed to judge flight of the ball but Molloy’s shot was inch perfect, a peach of a strike.
The Town reacted positively for the next ten minutes and Ryan Connolly almost equalised for the visitors but his stinging shot hit the underside of the bar. That was Longford’s only chance of the first-half.
The red card came minutes later and any resurgence Longford had was taken away with that moment of madness. Treacy not only let his teammates down, but the 200 or so Longford Town fans that had made the trip to Galway.
The home side went up a gear looking for the second goal. However, despite Shanahan coming close on three separate occasions, the half ended 1-0 and Tony Cousins’ side survived to take stock at the break.
A different Longford Town emerged in the second period with David O’Sullivan deployed as a lone striker in a 4-4-1 formation.
A chance for the visitors arose soon after the break as O’Sullivan beat two defenders to advance into the penalty area but Mervue ‘keeper Conor O’Malley was equal to him.
Cousins’ team were a much tighter unit this half and chances were few and far between for the home side despite them enjoying lots of possession.
Mervue threatened through Tom King, Shanahan and conductor Manning. On 55 minutes Shanahan had the ideal opportunity to extend his teams lead, but could only head over the bar from eight yards even though he was unmarked.
O’Sullivan came close to equalising on 65 minutes but his shot hit the side netting. Many gasps were heard as he unleashed his effort. A dangerous player he most certainly is.
As the clock ticked away Longford were happy to sit back and let Mervue come at them but the home side just couldn’t get the rub of the green when it mattered.
Despite being down to ten men the visitors performed far better in the second-half than the opening period. Clearly Cousins’ first-half tactics was an oversight on his part and something Johnny Glynn had anticipated.
As they game entered its dying embers, Gary Shaw’s header from a Connolly free kick rattled the home crossbar while down at the other end Gary Curran’s effort, which he should have blasted into the net, was easily saved by Bennion. And so with that, Longford breathe a sigh of relief and re-group for the return leg next Friday.
Mervue will be disappointed overall but they were the better team throughout, playing the better football and will be confident as they head to City Calling Stadium next week.
Mervue United 4-4-2: Conor O’Malley; Tom King (capt), Paul Sinnot, Stephen Walsh, Marc Ludden; Gary Shanahan, Gary Curran, Barry O’Mahony, Jason Molloy (Joe Woods 83’); Ryan Manning, Michael Duffy (Brendan Lavelle 66’)
Subs not used: Mike Elwood, Ger Hanley, Gary Kelly, Noel Varley,
Booked: Jason Molloy
Sent off: None
Longford Town: Chris Bennion, Des Hope, , Rhys Gorman, Chris Deans, Noel Haverty; Corie Tracey (capt); Derek O'Brien (Glen O’Connor 45’), Keith Quinn, Ryan Connolly Daniel Purdy (Gav Doyle 77’); Gary Shaw, David O'Sullivan (Josh O’Hallon 81’)
Subs not used: Brian McCarthy, Michael Isichei, Paul Hunt, Dean Ebbe,
Booked: Keith Quinn
Sent off: Corie Treacy
Referee: Keith Callanan
Extratime.ie Man of the match: Ryan Manning