A battling display from ten man Longford proved not to be enough on Friday night, as a 65th minute Christy Fagan strike separated two evenly matched teams at the City Calling Stadium.
The Midlands outfit started the game with the same starting eleven that claimed an opening day 2-0 triumph in Wexford one week ago, while Liam Buckley’s ”Saints” saw one change from the 3-1 loss to Galway. It was the midfield area where many expected this game to be won and lost and early on it was the hosts who won the battle. Kevin O’Connor in particular was dominating proceedings with some tough tackling and classy passing with Kealon Dillon also a key cog in the Longford wheel.
However, it was the visitors who created the first real opening as David O’Sullivan was caught napping with Pats full back Ian Bermingham latching onto a wonderful cross field ball prior to hammering a ferocious volley only a coupe of yards past Paul Skinner’s far post.
From the get go, the home fans were on the referees back as Jim McKell failed to penalise what looked to be obvious shirt pulling and pushes by St.Pat’s players. It was the inconsistent of the man in the middle however, that upset the small crowd at ”CCS” more than anything and his harsh booking of Town captain Conor Powell early on would soon prove fatal. With only seven minutes remaining before the break, Powell had a moment of madness as he lunged in on Conan Byrne, who at the time appeared to be going no where of significance, and as a result McKell had no option but to produce a second yellow card.
Even when on top, Longford appeared slightly deep at times in this home tie and the red card for Powell pretty much ended any chance of a goal on the night for Town. Having gone close from set pieces twice in the opening forty-five minutes, this route would now prove to be Cousins side most likely route into the game. Noel Haverty in particular was unlucky to see his shot turned away from the goal mouth in the opening period as the defender looked for his second goal in a week, following his Leinster Senior Cup effort over Drumcondra on Monday night.
Half-time saw key man, Kevin O’Connor replaced by full-back Dan O’Reilly as Longford looked to plug the gaps left by Powell’s sending off. As expected the Dublin club were now dominating the ball but it was all in front of the Longford banks of defence with a stalemate starting to look likely.
However, the break through was just around the corner as Longford failed to clear their lines prior to the ball falling to Fagan in the penalty area, with the 2014 PFAI player of the year making no mistake by volleying the ball to the back of the net. Longford fans appealed for an apparent push in the back on one of the centre-backs but referee McKell was having none of it as the ”Saints” grabbed a vital lead.
While the winning side had a couple of long range chances soon after, which were well dealt with by Town ‘keeper Paul Skinner, it was Longford who ended the game the stronger as first a long range David O’Sullivan half-volley was turned behind for a corner before Pats number one Brendan Clarke plucked the ball from the air as Paul Skinner attempted to get his head on it and play the role of goal scoring goalkeeper!
The final whistle signalled massive relief for the traveling ”Saints” fans who made excellent noise throughout the occasion, while the home fans trickled out largely disappointed at the fact their team had come up short in an attempt for a points return. The positive for Tony Cousins disappointed players is they will only have to wait a couple of days now to set the record straight with a trip to Cork City on the cards, elsewhere a couple of Dublin derbies may prove difficult fair for a below par St.Pat’s so far this season.
BETWEEN THE STRIPES MAN OF THE MATCH: Christy Fagan (St.Pat’s) – The away sides number nine is regarded as one of the best in the league and his lively play all night was a joy to watch. Took his goal wonderfully well too.
OFFICIAL ATTENDANCE: 725 (Away fans est. 150)