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St. Patrick’s Athletic failed to capitalise on their impressive 3-0 victory over Galway United earlier this week as Longford Town stumped Liam Buckley’s side to an enthralling 3-3 draw at Richmond Park with six goals coming in a franticly open second half, as Tony Cousins’ men drew level on points with Bray Wanderers at the bottom of the Premier Division while St. Pats maintained fifth spot.
Former Saints forward Philip Gannon gave Longford the lead no less than 34 seconds into the second half before Sam Verdon equalized with a stunning header off the underside of the crossbar. This before Tony Cousins’ side braved to take the lead again from captain Conor Powell before second half substitute Conan Byrne drew the sides level again with seventeen minutes remaining.
Two more goals concluded one of the most entertaining halves of Premier Division football this season, in the game’s final ten minutes. David O’Sullivan’s penalty gave Longford what seemed an inevitable victory before Jamie McGrath clawed the scores level again with three minutes remaining.
In a first half that played out in frequent bursts of stops and starts it was an acrobatic effort from Jamie McGrath - replacing the instrumental Christy Fagan absent with a foot injury - and a stunningly well-worked team goal from David O’Sullivan ruled out for offside that grabbed the attention of the television cameras on show in Inchicore.
The game’s first real chance came when Darren Dennehy was nearly left red faced at a blatant error in the St. Pats defence after half an hour. His stray pass gave the ball to the lively Kaleem Simon who fed the ball to an unmarked David O’Sullivan beyond the Saints back line who was flagged offside after putting the ball into the top corner.
But it was with the help of Mark Timlin that Buckley’s side carved out a rare chance in the first half. The former Derry-City midfielder who squeezed in a tight cross from the byline. Jamie McGrath gathered the ball into himself before bending a brilliant effort goalbound that just rose above the crossbar.
No sooner had the stadium announcer informed the crowd of the half-time substitutes had former St. Pats forward Philip Gannon given Longford, on the balance of play, a more than deserved lead. The Town went on the attack straight from the whistle with Gannon snatching at David O’Sullivan’s neat lay-off inside the box for it to creep beyond Brendan Clarke’s fingers on its way into the bottom corner of the goal only 34 seconds into the second half.
But the Saints clawed the scores level almost immediately on 49 minutes, when Billy Dennehy’s corner was smashed off the underside of the crossbar magnificently by the head of Sam Verdon.
After an even spell between the teams Longford broke at pace to snatch the lead once again in a fitting move emblematic of the side’s courage on the night. Kevin O’Connor raced at breakneck speed into the St. Pats half before laying the ball off to meet the run of Conor Powell from the right side of defence.
Powell cut inside cleverly, evading the challenge of Lee Desmond before cutting the ball across his body and into the bottom left-hand corner - again brushing beyond the fingers of Clarke - to bring the scoreline to 2-1 with just under half an hour left to play.
Longford played out the remainder of the game with a renewed sense of confidence finally unearthed. Josh O’Hanlon took the motive of the day in running directly at St. Pats along their exposed left side following the substitution of Ian Bermingham, to cut inside again and hit an effort toward Clarke’s bottom corner - this time Clarke saving.
But this game offered up another slice of drama from its second half cake of goals and cream as Ger O’Brien sliced the Longford defence into pieces for second-half substitute Conan Byrne to sweep the ball beyond the palming save of Ian Molloy off his line after 73 minutes to level proceedings once again at 2-2.
It was not over however. St. Pats pushed the Town back and further back to defend an impending winner from the Saints but Longford pushed forward and won a penalty for all their want and desire as Kaleem Simon was taken down inside the penalty area by Darren Dennehy - the player given his second yellow card and sent off by referee Robert Harvey.
The drama was unending in Inchicore as after initially smashing the crossbar David O’Sullivan side-footed the ball beyond Clarke to race away with the lead, 3-2.
It still wasn’t over as Liam Buckley’s side poured all their effort to reap yet another equalizer. Mark Timlin crossed inside the box to meet Jamie McGrath who managed to steer the ball beyond the endless pairs of Longford legs and into the bottom corner to make it 3-3.
McGrath had a final chance to take home all three points but the exhaustive drama of the final ten minutes caught up with the forward - as McGrath attempted to lob the ball past Molloy his shot failed to steer the ball home and was caught comfortably by goalkeeper Molloy.
St. Patrick’s Athletic: Brendan Clarke; Ger O’Brien, Darren Dennehy, Sean Hoare, Ian Bermingham (Lee Desmond 40); David Cawley (Conan Byrne 71), Shane McEleney (Keith Tracey 45), Mark Timlin, Sam Verdon; Billy Dennehy, Jamie McGrath
Subs not used: Patrick Jennings; Michael Barker, Dylan McGlade, Dinny Corcoran
Bookings: Darren Dennehy (24) (85), Sean Hoare (50), Ger O’Brien (91)
Sent off: Darren Dennehy (85)
Longford Town: Ian Molloy; James Mulhall, Kevin O’Connor (Kealan Dillon 76), Conor Powell, Tristan Noack-Hoffman; Lee Duffy (Josh O’Hanlon, 55), Kaleem Simon, Pat Flynn; Philip Gannon, David O’Sullivan, Mark Rossiter
Subs not used: Dylan McGoey, Daniel O’Reilly, Mark Hughes, Cody Mulhall, Don Cowan
Bookings: Lee Duffy (14), Ian Molloy (85), David O'Sullivan (90+2)
Sent off: None
Referee: Robert Harvey
ExtraTime.ie Man of the Match: David O’Sullivan (Longford Town)