Going into Saturday night’s game at the City Calling Stadium, Longford Town were without a home win for over seventeen months so to concede after just three minutes was far from the ideal for Alan Mathews side. However, an Enda Curran brace and a second half strike from captain Kevin O’Connor saw “De Town” through as they cut the gap on leaders Waterford FC to eight points.
Many were still taking their seats on a mild night in the Midlands when what looked to be a harmless run by “Shels” Dayle Rooney resulted in the “Redsman” getting a shot in on goal from around twenty-yards out and he calmly placed the ball in the bottom left-hand-corner as former Shelbourne ‘keeper Paul Skinner was beaten.
Despite that early setback Longford rallied as the side placed second bottom ahead of kick-off started to get the ball down in midfield and move it at pace with Kevin O’Connor, Gavin Boyne and striker Enda Curran all looking to move the “Shels” back-four across the “CCS” surface. As a result it didn’t take long for Town to strike back and it was from a set-piece on fifteen-minutes as O’Connor picked out Curran with a beautiful and accurate lobbed pass before the number nine hooked it past the experienced Dean Delaney. Curran’s first goal since signing from Galway was well worth the wait and the relief and ecstasy on Curran’s face could clearly be seen as he celebrated his fine strike in front of the main stand.
Longford were now looking to pick the tempo up again and hit Owen Heary’s charges while they were down but to be fair to the Dublin club not only did they cope with what the next five to ten minutes brought but it could be argued they started to get back on top of the hosts again slightly in what was an evenly fought if not always thoroughly entertaining contest.
However, all of Shelbourne’s hard work would be undone just before the half-hour mark when a horrendously under-hit back-pass saw the now clearly pumped up Enda Curran steal a march on “Shels” ‘keeper Delaney, who in attempting to clear the loose ball took Curran out as “De Town” were awarded a much welcomed spot-kick. Longford’s Davy O’Sullivan had seen his twelve-yard effort saved by the same goalkeeper in the first game of the season between these two sides at Tolka Park but with “Sully” out of action tonight thanks to a groin injury it was to be Curran who stepped up to the mark and how as he dispatched it to make it 2-1 Town!
Having failed to score in seven league games for his new club, Curran was now chomping at the bit to make up for lost time and on forty-one minutes he was denied his first ever Longford Town hat-trick by the finger tips of Delaney. Having broken down the right for the first time all night, Aidan Friel delivered a wicked yet precise cross onto the head of Curran who’s effort looked destined for the very top corner only for Delaney to somehow claw it away for a corner kick. That was to be the last real action of an up and down first-forty-five.
The opening quarter or so of the second period was flat enough in truth, but just past the hour-mark both sets of fans were sent wild but for very different reasons. A free-kick on the edge of the Shelbourne area won thanks to a jinking run from former “Red” Dylan McGlade was initially blocked by the Dublin teams wall but when the rebound fell to O’Connor he skipped by a couple of opposition players before firing low and hard into Dean Delaney’s bottom-right to send the home faithful wild. Town’s celebrations in front of the vocal “Shels” fans saw the home stewards called into action as O’Connor and co gave the traveling support some pay-back for the stick dished out before the goal, it was clear now Longford’s tails were up.
Mathews team now looked comfortable and good money for their lead, however some careless defending and decision making in the closing stages nearly allowed Owen Heary’s team back into the game and the “Reds” really should have had a penalty late on when Rooney was taken down by the excellent on the night Daniel O’Reilly with Paul Skinner bearing down on the striker, before claiming the loose ball after a couple of attempts and heart-stopping moments. Heary and his coaching staff were irate and it even appeared that Town boss Mathews agreed the decision had been harsh on his former side. However, “Shels” race was already over and soon after the full-time whistle went as the home side were applauded off by a crowd that had totally forgotten that winning feeling.
Tonight’s win over the Dublin club sends “De Town” ahead of arch rivals Athlone Town in the First Division standings with a long trip to Cobh Ramblers next on the cards in the second tier. However, prior to that Shelbourne and LTFC must clash again on Easter Monday in the second round of the EA Sports Cup at Tolka Park. With both sides placing far more importance on a steady start in the league campaign expect two totally different outfits to tonight’s game at “CCS” even with the injury crisis Longford are currently suffering, with five first-teamers missing tonight’s game through injury.
Between the Stripes Man of the Match: Daniel O’Reilly (Longford Town) – Quickly becoming one of the most promising defenders in the country, the former Fulham man looks to be a calm yet rock-solid piece of the Alan Mathews jigsaw puzzle.