Longford Town opened up a six point gap at the top of the First Division table after a 3-1 win against Waterford United at the City Calling Stadium on Friday evening.
Tony Cousins’ side didn’t have it all their own way after the away side took a first half lead through Stephen Grant, but a brace from Gary Shaw and another from David O’Sullivan sealed the win.
Both sides had early spells of possession but Longford had the first real attack. Don Cowan attacked down the right side and was fouled inside the penalty area. Cowan and his teammates appealed for the spot kick but referee Rob Hennessey somehow booked Cowan for an alleged dive.
Ten minutes in Brian Nolan made great progress crossfield but his cross couldn’t find a Blues shirt inside the penalty area.
Nolan forced Longford keeper Hunt into a save after 13 minutes. Nolan blocked Hunt’s attempted clearance to see the ball drop to Jack Doherty. He found Nolan on the left but Hunt was equal to his strike.
The Blues deservedly took the lead after 15 minutes and it was a goal of real quality. Stephen Grant drove from midfield unchallenged and he didn’t need a second invite as he curled a beautiful right footed strike past the dive of Hunt from just outside the penalty area.
Seven minutes later Doherty and O’Connor looked to combine down the left but Doherty’s run didn’t match the good O’Connor through ball. Doherty was involved again minutes later when he was found by Grant on the left but his cross couldn’t find Kiely.
Kevin Burns came to the Blues rescue just after the half hour as he superbly tipped David O’Sullivan’s goalbound header wide of the far corner. Central defender Patrick Fitzgerald kept the Blues ahead minutes later scooping the ball clear from a dangerous Cowan cross in front of his goal. Two minutes later Burns made an easy save from Gorman’s long range free kick.
For all the Blues hard work, they were hit right on the stroke of half time. Willie John Kiely was penalised at one end despite looking like the player being fouled inside the penalty box. Referee Hennessey booked Kiely, and Longford attacked down the other end for Shaw to poke home after a scramble in the Blues penalty area.
The Blues were forced to defend early in the second half but Kevin Burns wasn’t forced into a save. Kiely was next to threaten but his long-range strike was saved by Hunt. Grant looked to find Kiely minutes later inside the box but Hunt was quick to collect.
For all the good Blues work, they went behind with twenty minutes remaining with Gary Shaw firing past Burns at the front post from David O’Sullivan’s cross from the right.
Burns kept it at 2-1 with a great save from O’Sullivan’s attempt, before Doherty and Grant almost combined to set up the latter, but a superb interception from Jamie Mulhall prevented the chance.
Doherty’s free kick from the right caused trouble in the Longford box, but Patrick Fitzgerald couldn’t stretch to get his head to the ball. Doherty was causing more trouble a minute later after getting past three, but his strike rolled agonisingly wide of Hunt’s bottom corner.
Mikie Rowe came on for his debut up front as the Blues looked to get back into the game, but Longford sealed the points with seven minutes remaining. Mark Salmon found substitute Peter Hynes who superbly found O’Sullivan 8-yards from goal and he fired past Burns.
The win sees Longford open a six point gap at the top of the league table, above Shelbourne and Galway FC.
Longford Town: Paul Hunt; Noel Haverty, Pat Sullivan, Pat Flynn, Jamie Mulhall; Don Cowan (Etanda Nkololo 71), Rhys Gorman, Mark Salmon, Kevin O’Connor; Gary Shaw (Peter Hynes 77), David O’Sullivan (Lorcan Shannon 90).
Subs not used: Chris Bennion (gk), Lee Higgins, Giordano Cinelli.
Waterford United: Kevin Burns; Thomas Croke, Patrick Fitzgerald, Gavin O’Donovan, Shaun Corcoran; Brian Nolan, Vinny Sullivan, Kevin O’Connor, Stephen Grant (Conor Coad 81), Jack Doherty (Andrew O’Connor 88); Willie John Kiely (Mikie Rowe 81).
Subs not used: Matthew Connor, Ethan Boyle, Daryl Power.
Referee: Robert Hennessey.