Second half goals from Karl Bermingham and Thomas Crawley sealed a crucial three points for Longford Town against Wexford Youths on Saturday night, as they reclaimed second place in the First Division.
Given that Limerick and Waterford both won on Friday night this was a must win for Tony Cousins’ Longford Town as they sought to maintain a strategic position in the First Division title race.
Playing with a midfield diamond anchored by Keith Gillespie and with Karl Bermingham on the forward point, Longford had the better of a tight opening 20 minutes, without ever genuinely threatening Graham Doyle’s goal.
It wasn’t until the 27th minute that the first real chance was created and it was Wexford who made it, Brian Nolan’s diagonal free kick dropping behind the last defender and onto the chest of Aidan Keenan. The winger took the ball well but then blew his volley high, high over the Longford bar.
Just one minute later Longford centre back Willo McDonagh had a golden opportunity to give the home side the lead. Finding himself with only Doyle to beat from close range, he side-footed tamely into the Wexford keeper’s arms.
But with two banks of four working well to contain the home side, Wexford were coping comfortably enough with what threw at them, but on 34 minutes Tony Griffiths broke through on the right only to drag his low shot across goal and wide of Doyle’s far post.
The half ended in stalemate with neither team having figured out quite how to best the other, Keith Gillespie finishing the opening forty five minutes with a wild shot to nothing from wide on the right that sailed high into the Longford sky.
Just two minutes into the second half the deadlock was broken. Griffiths crossed from the right and Thomas Crawley headed back across goal for Karl Bermingham to head home from point blank range.
The goal seemed to give Longford the boost they needed and they came close to extending their lead several times in the aftermath. On 51 minutes Crawley found himself under a dropping ball about eight yards from goal and stabbed a well executed first time shot that Doyle did extremely well to palm around his near post.
From the subsequent corner, Willo McDonagh’s header was cleared off the line by half-time substitute CJ Browne, and two minutes after that Colm James flashed a 20 yard volley narrowly wide.
Longford’s second half energy was higher all over the pitch and Wexford’s attempts to work their way back into this game were hampered by constant harassment when they had the ball.
Wexford did create a half chance just after the hour mark when Danny Furlong picked up the rebound off a long ball, hitting a first time shot from the edge of the box that Hyland did well to turn out for a corner. But it was Longford who continued to set the agenda.
With 66 minutes gone Aidan Collins got up to meet a Keith Gillespie free. His effort was finely judged and only an acrobatic tip-over from Doyle kept the ball out. Then Bermingham turned onto a volley from the right hand side of the area and could only watch as the ball evaded Doyle and roll inches beyond the far post.
But 71 minutes in, the result was secured. The ball was lifted into the box where Bermingham flicked on for Crawley who drove home through the legs of Doyle, the ball just about making it over the line.
Willo McDonagh had the ball in the net a third time, six minutes later, but the flag had gone up on the far side. It was a reprieve that seemed immaterial but Wexford took the opportunity to mount a spirited last hurrah.
With ten minutes left on the clock Joe Mulcahy drove a free kick off the Longford wall and watched as the ball spun towards the net with keeper Hyland wrong-footed by the deflection. The home crowd were relieved to see it just clear the bar and roll across the top of the net.
The last word was left to Longford substitute Austin Skelly who capped an energetic few minutes on the field with a determined turn and shot which cleared the Wexford bar.
Longford Town: Craig Hyland; Mark Salmon, Willo McDonagh, Aidan Collins, Michael Lee; Colm James, Keith Gillespie (Alan Kirby 81), Karl Bermingham (Austin Skelly 87), Robert Bayly (Craig Walsh 85); Tony Griffiths, Thomas Crawley.
Subs not used: Paul Hunt, Darragh Reynor, Chris Deans, Jamie Duffy.
Wexford Youths: Graham Doyle; Shane Clarke, Brian Nolan (CJ Browne 46), Jamie Carr, Shaun Corcoran; Joe Mulcahy, Thomas Croke, Paul Malone (Dean Broaders 77), Aidan Keenan; Glen Hawe (Eric Molloy 85); Danny Furlong.
Subs not used: James Darmody, James Scallon, Caolan O’Gorman.
Referee: Kevin O’Regan.
Extratime Man of the Match: Karl Bermingham (Longford Town).