Ten-man Longford Town came away from their clash with Mervue United at Fahy’s Field with maximum points on Friday night, and results elsewhere sees Tony Cousins’ side move seven points clear at the top of the Airtricity First Division.
The midlands club came from a goal down to claim a deserved 2-1 victory over Mervue on a sunny and warm evening in Galway. Paul Sinnott gave Mervue the lead going into the break but Longford’s David O’Sullivan and David O’Neill were the Town’s saviours in the second-half.
The league leaders managed all this without defender William McDonagh who was shown a straight red card on 54 minutes. It was hard to see exactly what foul was committed but referee Andrew Mullally made an elbow gesture and Gary Kelly was seen clutching his face.
Longford almost opened the scoring within two minutes through in-form striker O’Sullivan. Daniel Purdy picked out the former Wayside Celtic player in space and he turned swiftly but his effort was weak and Conor Gleeson collected easily in the Mervue goal. Purdy then whipped in a cross from the left that found Gary Shaw but his slide was miss-timed and the home side breathed a sigh of relief.
Mervue settled and began to stamp their authority in midfield. A number of crunching tackles were made during the game and O’Sullivan and McDonagh were both booked for late challenges. McDonagh’s in particular was vicious on young Ryan Manning.
Jason Molloy and Manning had long range efforts saved as the home side probed. Longford did have the ball in the Mervue net on the half hour mark but Brian McCarthy was correctly deemed off-side and the goal was disallowed.
McCarthy should be held responsible for Mervue’s opener, however. In space, facing his own goal and with plenty of time, the central defender tried to clear the ball over his head. The ball finally wound its way out to Jason Molloy on the right and his cross was half-blocked. The alert Sinnott beat Noel Haverty to the loose ball and his 20-yard shot beat Longford ‘keeper Chris Bennion.
Even after McDonagh’s red card, Johnny Glynn’s team were happy to sit deep on their one goal lead despite having an extra player - a dangerous tactic against an experienced team with the prolific O’Sullivan in its ranks. It was only a matter of when, not if, Longford would score.
On 74 minutes Keith Quinn skipped past substitute Tom King and played a superb ball to O’Sullivan down the left channel. The 25 year old turned and from the edge of the box fired his twelfth goal of the season into the corner. That’s not the first time this season that Mervue have sat back when leading teams only to be punished.
Less than three minutes later Longford had the lead through a David O’Neill header. The substitute’s first goal this season came courtesy of Quinn’s cross, this time from the right hand side.
Glynn emptied his bench as Mervue pressed for a leveller but Longford were far too disciplined in defence to allow even a sniff of a chance. The home side, even with the extra man, were clueless going forward.
A late chance for O’Sullivan nearly made it 3-1 deep in stoppage time but curled his effort the wrong side of Gleeson’s post. Longford’s push for promotion is firmly on track while Mervue’s promising start to the season has been derailed slightly.
Mervue United: Connor Gleeson; Michael McSweeney, Joe Woods, Stephen Walsh, Marc Ludden; Jason Molloy, Noel Varley, Paul Sinnott, Gary Kelly (Gary Shanahan 82); Ryan Manning, Brendan Lavelle (Tom King 70).
Subs not used: Kenny Farrell, Ross Kenny, Martin Conneely, Brian O’Donoghue.
Booked: Sinnott (46).
Longford Town: Chris Bennion; Noel Haverty (Gavin Doyle 65), William McDonagh, William Tyrell, Brian McCarthy; Keith Gillespie (David O’Neill 61), Mark Salmon, Keith Quinn, Gary Shaw (Josh O’Hanlon 85); David O’Sullivan, Daniel Purdy.
Subs not used: Michael Isichei, Paul Hunt, Aaron Brilly.
Booked: McDonagh (14), O’Sullivan (17) Gillespie (35) Gavin Doyle (93)
Sent off: McDonagh (55)
Referee: Andrew Mullally.
Extratime man of the match: David O’Sullivan (Longford Town) - not in the game for large periods but showed his class when called upon.