A David O’Sullivan hat-trick helped Longford Town to a 3-0 win over Cobh Ramblers at St. Colman’s Park on Saturday night to move four points clear at the top of the SSE Airtricity First Division.
O’Sullivan, the league’s top-scorer, tapped home in the 27th minute after great work down the right by Gary Shaw to give his side the lead.
The striker added a second two minutes before the break when he cleverly found the bottom corner with a toe-poke after Mark Salmon’s free-kick from the right and took his tally to 15 goals for the season with a late diving header.
The win for the experienced Longford side was richly deserved although second-placed Shelbourne can close the gap to a single point with a win against Shamrock Rovers B in Tallaght tomorrow.
Longford were unchanged from the side that beat Wexford Youths at Ferrycarrig Park last week while Cobh made three changes to the side that earned their first away point of the season at Finn Park. Kynan Rocks and Ronan Stanton started up front with Irish underage international Ryan Goldsmith and Brendan Kenny dropping out as Robert Birdsall replaced the injured Shane Hallahan in goal.
Cobh started well with Stephen Kenny, a recent signing from Waterford, making an excellent run down the right with Kynan Rocks’ shot from inside the box well blocked.
Longford responded immediately with speedy right-winger Don Cowan skinning Anthony O’Donnell but Brendáin Frahill was on hand to block David O’Sullivan’s shot.
After those early opportunities, the game settled down with Longford well on top of their younger counterparts. Gary Shaw and David O’Sullivan always looked dangerous up front with the experience of Stephen Rice in midfield and Pat Sullivan in defence proving too much for the hosts.
Longord deservedly hit the front on 27 minutes when O'Sullivan tapped after a great run by strike partner Shaw down the left wing.
Cobh responded well to the setback and spurned two presentable chances five minutes before the break with Ronan Stanton central to the moves.
First, the former Douglas Hall man blazed over at the near post after superbly creating space for himself on the right side of the box.
A minute later the striker popped up on the left wing and played a low ball across the box but a stretching Martin Deady could only direct the ball wide of the post with his weaker right foot.
And Ramblers were made to pay for those missed chances when Longford doubled their lead in the 43rd minute. O’Sullivan was once again the scorer as he poked the ball home from inside the box after captain Mark Salmon clipped in a free-kick from the right.
It was a soft goal for the hosts to concede and was a real blow as it came just after they had just started to threaten the Longford rearguard.
Cobh manager Martin Cambridge moved Kenny up front for the second period with Rocks taking his place on the right wing but the Longford rearguard looked comfortable in the opening stages of the second half.
Stephen Kenny had a shot blocked before being booked for dissent as Cobh started to show their frustration.
O’Sullivan nearly completed his hat-trick with 21 minutes to go but Birdsall just managed to scramble the ball clear after initially spilling Salmon’s shot from outside the box.
But the striker wasn’t to be denied with seven minutes remaining when Cowan sent in a pinpoint cross from the right and O’Sullivan’s diving header found the bottom corner to complete a perfect night for the Midlanders.
Cobh Ramblers: Robert Birdsall; Roy Kenny, Craig Burns, Brendan Frahill, Anthony O’Donnell; Stephen Kenny (Nathaniel Gumbo 79), Christopher McCarthy (Bobbi Donoghue 65), Garry Comerford, Martin Deady; Kynan Rocks, Ronan Stanton.
Subs not used: Eoghan Daly (gk), Brendan Kenny, Jonathan Creamer, Daniel Barry.
Booked: Roy Kenny (42), Martin Deady (46), Stephen Kenny (54), Garry Comerford (78)
Longford Town: Paul Hunt; Jamie Mulhall, Pat Sullivan, Pat Flynn, Willie Tyrrell; Don Cowan (Lorcan Shannon 84), Stephen Rice (Rhys Gorman 49), Mark Salmon, Kevin O’Connor; Gary Shaw (Peter Hynes 66), David O’Sullivan.
Subs not used: Chris Bennion (gk), Noel Haverty, Etando Nkololo, Lee Higgins.
Booked: Rhys Gorman (55).
Referee: Eoghan O’Shea
Attendance: 250 (estimate)
Extratime.ie Man of the Match: David O’Sullivan (Longford Town)