It’s just over a week since Longford Town’s latest and perhaps most devastating heartbreak this season as “De Town” came from behind three times away to Champions Dundalk only to lose a seven goal thriller deep into injury time. The Longford Town executive committee have come under heavy fire over recent months for their apparent backing of manager Tony Cousins, although they have never stated it publicly, and the Midlands boss was clearly devastated at the full-time whistle in Oriel Park. Cousins spoke of his players desire to still perform for him and that displays like this one against the back to back League of Ireland champions would yield results sooner rather than later. On Friday night the under-fire Longford boss has the opportunity to prove his critics wrong and start a turn around at the foot of the table. Having had over a week to prepare for the trip to the Brandywell, thanks to Dundalk’s European obligations , Cousins should have had more than enough time to focus on the shambolic defending that cost “De Town” so dear against the Champions. While some may argue it will take the Town boss a lot longer than a few training sessions to turn the teams fortunes around at the back, the sad fact is timing is running out and fast with eighteen games already played in the league campaign. Results are now needed and with immediate effect as Bray Wanderers have started to open up a gap on their relegation rivals thanks to four points in their last two outings, but thankfully for Town fans it appears Wexford Youths may be on the slide. With the Youths next league game against St.Pat’s postponed due to the “Saints” European commitments, “De Town” now have the opportunity to put pressure on the teams above them for the first real occasion this season.
Longford Town FC have bounced from controversy to controversy this season and in the build up to Friday’s game the club have been the centre of attention on social media, but sadly not in a good light. Disbelief and outrage filled the message boards last night when the clubs official Twitter account announced that Town duo Don Cowan and John McKeown had been given permission to play in a friendly game against the MK Dons for Drogheda United as they required game time. The short 140 character long statement went on to say the pair were still members of Longford Town FC. Debate soon began among supporters and pundits a like online with the majority bashing Longford for allowing such a move, while the minority stated their belief that it was better to send these players to ther clubs than arrange a friendly of our own and risk injury to other players. However, when you look at the current Town squad it is clear there are far more than just two players who could benefit from some extra game time, so why not organise at the very least a friendly against the under-19’s or an inter-squad game? Ian Molloy, Jamie Mulhall, Tristan Noak Hofmann, Rhys Gorman, Peter McGlynn and Cody Mulhall are just some of the names that spring to mind in terms of a lack of game time this season while new signings such as Ryan Coulter and Eddie Dsane would also benefit from a run out with their new team-mates.
So, what are the odds of Longford Town claiming their first league win since the opening day of the season at the Brandywell on Friday night? The “Candystripes” come into this game also off the back of defeat by Stephen Kenny’s Dundalk but unlike Longford it was not a respectable scoreline as the Champions put five past the home side. Derry boss Kenny Shiels came out and bashed his players lack of concentration after that game and having not played since, Friday will be an interesting insight into the City bosses man management skills. Prior to that disappointing defeat, City had been on a five game undefeated streak in all competitions and overall it has been an excellent first season in charge for new boss Shiels. While early season talk of a possible title challenge has long passed thanks to Dundalk’s dominate fifteen point lead, the “Candystripes”currently sit third in the Premier Division table and are more than capable of securing a finish in that position come seasons end. With uncertainty at fourth placed Shamrock Rovers and the poor league form of sixth placed St.Pat’s, European football very well could return to the “Randy Brandywell” next season. That in itself is a sign as to the size of the task facing a desperate Longford Town side this Friday night.
In the sides first meeting this season at City Calling Stadium, Longford Town delivered one of their finest performances this season to claim a point against an impressive Derry City. A solid defensive effort that night saw the “Candystripes” leave the Midlands frustrated while Longford fans were hoping to see the result used as a springboard. However, that bounce never came and it’s been a constant and worrying trend for Longford that they have failed to deliver good back to back performances this season. In fact, so far this season Longford Town FC have failed to follow up a win or draw with another positive result in their next game. After “De Town’s” opening win over Wexford they fell to St.Pat’s at home in their next league game while draws against Bray, Derry Galway, St.Pat’s and Bray again were all followed up with defeats in their next league game. Now while it must be remembered Longford lost their last game, the performance against Dundalk means the result was almost viewed as a positive one by some so the question of whether “De Town” can over come this mental block and deliver back to back performances for the first time this season remains to be seen.