Longford Town 2 - 3 Bray Wanderers (Bray win 5-4 on agg)
Kevin O’Connor’s stunning long-range strike four minutes from time kept Bray Wanderers in the Premier Division and consigned Longford Town to another season in the First Division.
It was tough luck on the home side who had battled bravely to get back into the game after twice falling behind but O’Connor’s late strike decided this entertaining tie. It was a goal worthy of winning any game but Longford defender Keith Quinn had clearly been fouled before the goal and should’ve been awarded a free.
The goal really knocked Longford and try as they might they just couldn’t get another equaliser to bring the game into extra-time; something that they deserved.
Just like the game in Bray on the Monday night Longford found themselves trailing to an early goal in the 2nd leg when Gary Dempsey scored an excellent goal from Conor Earley’s free in the 3rd minute.
Longford nearly responded in perfect fashion; Daniel Purdy played the ball into David O’Sullivan but Dave Webster did very well to put the player under pressure and avert any danger.
Bray then took a hold of proceedings and created several chances but just couldn’t put them away with Longford keeper Chris Bennion in inspirational form. In the 8th minute Bennion made a terrific fingertip save to push out Webster’s shot. Shane O’Connor then headed just inches wide from a Kieran Marty Waters corner just after.
Bennion was once again the Longford hero in the 22nd minute when he used his feet to make a great save and deny Webster. Minutes later Longford had a chance but Gary Shaw’s glancing header went wide. Bennion had to be alert once again in the 29th minute this time denying Kevin O’Connor.
As half-time approached Longford had a few half chances but they didn’t trouble Bray keeper Darren Quigley. In first half additional time Bennion was on hand once again to make a fantastic fingertip from a Waters’ effort.
Longford were a different proposition after the break. Two minutes into the second half Purdy cut inside and the ball fell to defender Noel Haverty who sliced his effort wide. Derek O’Brien then broke down the wing, played a lovely cross to Purdy who was just inches away from connecting with it.
On the break Bray could’ve doubled their advantage but Bennion denied Kevin O’Connor. In the 58th minute Town drew level; O’Brien did well to play the ball to Purdy whose fantastic strike beat Quigley.
Town were buoyed up by that goal but then they decided to make a double substitution and off went O’Brien with Josh O’Hanlon replacing him and Shaw moved to the wing. It was a decision that proved to be a turning point in the game because O’Brien had been a real threat for Longford.
Five minutes later Bray took the lead again; Jason Byrne’s knocked on found Waters and he made no mistake. Longford had a goal ruled out in the 76th minute when O’Hanlon was flagged offside but they got back on level terms minutes later through Purdy again who hit another fantastic shot.
It was real end to end stuff and it was a game that no one deserved to lose. The goal gave Longford a lift and with much of the 2,749 crowd behind them their promotion dream was still very much alive. But as in previous game Bray Wanderers never know when they are beaten and four minutes from time Kevin O’Connor picked the ball up and unleashed a superb strike past the helpless Bennion. Longford were incensed because Quinn had been fouled just before the strike but the referee Derek Tomney didn’t pay heed to their protests.
Try as they might Longford just couldn’t get that elusive equaliser to bring the game to extra-time. Near the end Noel Haverty and Shane O’Connor were sent-off for an off the ball incident. It didn’t matter to either team because the game had been won in those few seconds in the 86th minute.
Longford Town: Chris Bennion; Noel Haverty, Chris Deans, Rhys Gorman, Keith Quinn; Daniel Purdy, Gavin Doyle (Willie Tyrrell 65), Ryan Connolly, Derek O’Brien (Josh O'Hanlon 65); Gary Shaw (David O'Neill 84), David O’Sullivan.
Subs not used:
Bray Wanderers: Darren Quigley; Daire Doyle, Shane O’Connor, Dave Webster, Conor Earley; Ismahil Akinade, Kevin O’Connor, Kevin Maher (John Mulroy 71), Kieran Marty Waters; Gary Dempsey; Jason Byrne (Adam Mitchell 90).
Subs not used:
Referee: Derek Tomney (Dublin)