A four goal blitz in the second quarter saw Longford Town surge to an easy 5-1 win over a hapless Cobh Ramblers side at the City Calling Stadium on Saturday night.
Five different Longford Town players got on the score-sheet as Tony Cousins’ men pushed their lead at the top of the Airtricity League First Division out to four points. The gamet also marked the night when Keith Gillespie claimed his first league goal for the midlands club. The moment arrived on the 22nd minute.
The home side had probed well in the opening twenty minutes with the industrious duo of Mark Salmon and Gary Shaw to the fore, carving out a couple of decent openings for Keith Quinn, before the inevitable goal arrived.
Some neat interplay in the middle set Gary Shaw away down the right wing. The advancing David O’Sullivan and Keith Quinn had both taken up menacing positions in the box as Shaw sent in his cross. The scrambled and overworked Cobh defence forced the ball clear but it only travelled as far as the arriving Keith Gillespie, totally unmarked on the edge of the box. Gillespie steadied before chipping Birdsall in the Cobh goal with a beautifully curled shot.
Thereafter the floodgates opened.
Four minutes later, Daniel Purdy whipped a cross into a crowded box which Gary Shaw turned home with a glancing header. And they could have had three only moments later when Mark Salmon threaded a lovely pass through to David O’Sullivan who found himself one-on-one with Birdsall but the keeper advanced with authority to make a fine save.
Throughout, Longford Town played smooth football and were sportingly given the chance to exercise their passing game by the stand-offish Cobh defence. On thirty-six minutes the game was effectively ended as a devastating counter-attack saw David O’Sullivan slip home his 11th goal of the season to give the Town a 3-0 lead.
A Cobh free kick 35 yards from goal was blocked by the Town wall. Reacting quickest against the mentally sluggish Cobh midfield, Gary Shaw latched on to the loose ball before driving purposefully for the halfway line against the suddenly stretched defence. Daniel Purdy made a superbly intelligent cross-field run into the wide gaping space on the far side of the pitch and Longford Town had a 3-on-2 situation. Wasting little time Shaw screwed a lovely pass across to Purdy with the outside of his left boot. One-on-one, Purdy’s shot was saved by Birdsall but he only parried the ball to the feet of the in-form O’Sullivan who had all the time in the world to control the ball and pass it home.
On the stroke of half time, Brian McCarthy made it 4-0 after Keith Quinn’s free kick, taken from an extremely tight angle, had twanged off the near post before landing at the feet of McCarthy who banged it into the net first-time, pinball style.
Cobh were barely any more energetic in the second half but they did pull one back in mystifying circumstances early on the 55th minute after a penalty was given for a presumed push in the back as the ball was dribbling out over the end line. None of the Cobh players attempted to look for it, but the referee’s assistant flagged vigorously for a spot kick and Martin Deady emphatically rammed the ball home from the penalty spot.
The game entered something of a lull after that but the home side continued to look the most likely to add to the scoreboard. With twelve minutes remaining Cobh’s general misery was compounded when their full back, Sean O’Mahony, was dispatched after receiving his second yellow card. His earlier booking had been handed out after the referee determined that he had taken a dive on the halfway line, a decision which, unsurprisingly, was enthusiastically greeted by the home supporters.
Seconds later, the effervescent Daniel Purdy made them pay by rifling home Longford Town’s fifth from just inside the box.
From there on in, both sides ambled about, Cobh engaging in the grisly operation of keeping the score down while Longford Town, having emptied their bench, casually pressed for a sixth.
The woodwork was to deny them. Late on, the excellent Mark Salmon stroked the ball off the top of the crossbar with an elegantly curled shot.
With almost the final shot, late substitute Josh O’Hanlon advanced on the Cobh goal and, with the defence AWOL and with all the time in the world, slipped his shot past Birdsall only to see it rebound off the foot of the post.
Longford Town: Chris Bennion; Noel Haverty, Brian McCarthy, Willo McDonagh, Willie Tyrell; Keith Quinn, Mark Salmon, Daniel Purdy, Keith Gillespie (Gavin Doyle, 69); Gary Shaw (Michael Isichei, 62), David O’Sullivan (Josh O’Hanlon, 79).
Subs not used: Paul Hunt, David O’Neill, Des Hope.
Cobh Ramblers: Robert Birdsall; Cian Murphy, Brendan Frahill, Brian Fitzgerald, Sean O’Mahony; Bobby Donoghue, Roy Kenny, Martin Deady, Danny Whelan-Aherne (Adam Thompson, 71); Alan O’Flynn (David Walsh, 77), Kynan Rocks.
Subs not used: Shane Hallahan, David Curran, Gary Collins, Keith O’Flynn.
Booked: Fitzgerald (40), O’Mahony (74).
Sent off: O’Mahony (78).
Referee: James McKell.
Extra-Time Man of the Match: Mark Salmon (Longford Town) - Longford Town’s captain pulled the strings all evening, creating an abundance of chances for his colleagues.