Galway United continued their perfect start to the season with a hard-fought victory over Longford Town at Eamonn Deacy Park on Friday evening.
Darren Clarke broke the deadlock with 15 minutes remaining to send United six points clear at the top of the table.
Conditions were tough at Eamonn Deacy Park and huge credit must go to Noel Connolly and his team for having the pitch in great condition.
United made their intentions clear from the start as Ronan Manning took on opposition full-back Gavin O’Brien at the first opportunity. Manning breezed past the Longford Town man before being tussled to the ground inside the area. Penalty to United within the first three minutes.
Stephen Walsh stepped up to take the spot-kick but saw his effort well saved by goalkeeper Jack Brady.
United didn’t let the missed opportunity affect them as they continued to dominate the opening exchanges.
Manning would soon create another opportunity as he dazzled his way past two defenders before teeing up Walsh who saw his shot deflected wide for a corner.
Manning then won a free-kick in a dangerous position as Longford’s only answer to his attacking threat was to foul the Galway man. The resulting free-kick was pulled back to Ed McCarthy on the edge of the box who dragged his shot wide of the post.
Manager John Caulfield’s pre-match thoughts rang true as United struggled to create chances against Longford’s well-organised defensive set-up.
It looked like it would take a moment of magic to unlock Longford’s stubborn backline and six minutes before half-time, Manning almost produced an early goal-of-the-season contender.
Manning, who was now picked up by three Longford men every time he received possession, dribbled from the middle of the park through the heart of the Longford defence to the edge of the area before seeing his shot fly over the crossbar.
Longford began the second half with more attacking intent as they began to hold possession and create a few half-chances. However, as they started to pushitch higher up the p, it left space for United to exploit.
Walsh’s flick-on sent McCarthy in behind De Town’s defence and he looked for Ibrahim Keita who had found space in the box only for his attempted pass to be cut out by the retreating Longford defender.
That opening spurred on the Tribesmen as they grew in confidence and threatened the Longford goal. Great play from Conor O’Keeffe set up Manning for an opportunity which he fired over the bar.
Approaching the hour mark, United continued to probe for an opening. McCarthy worked some space for himself down the right-hand side before releasing a powerful strike which was blocked by the continually dogged Longford defence.
It looked to be a night of frustration for United as Longford continued to hold firm throughout the second half. Francely Lomboto and Darren Clarke were introduced in an attempt to break the deadlock.
With only 15 minutes remaining on the clock, it was one of the substitutes who would prove the difference.
Clarke received the ball wide on the right before cutting inside to unleash a powerful drive to the back of the net, sparking a brilliant celebration from the former Longford Town man and from the supporters in the stands.
The visitors would respond to this setback as they pushed forward in search of an equaliser. Captain Conor McCormack put his body on the line to clear the danger from a promising attack.
United remained a threat in the closing moments and almost had the opportunity to put the game to bed as Lomboto worked the ball to Walsh whose tame effort was well held by Brady.
Walsh was nearly left to rue that missed opportunity as the clock ticked into the 94th minute. A dangerous cross into the box was almost diverted into the back of the United net by Rob Slevin, who did well to avert the danger given the awkward trajectory of the ball.
Longford piled everyone forward for the resulting corner, including goalkeeper Jack Brady. United, however, cleared the danger and held on for all three points.
That makes it six wins from six for John Caulfield\s side, who extend their lead at the top of the table to six points.
Galway United: B. Clarke, C. Horgan, R. Slevin, K. Brouder, C. O’Keeffe, E. McCarthy (D. Clarke 71’), V. Borden (D. Hurley 86’), C. McCormack, R. Manning (M. Nugent 86’), I. Kieta ( F. Lomboto 60’),, S. Walsh.
Longford Town: J. Brady, S. Elworthy, D. Daly (A. Verdon 71’), G. Armstrong ( J. Doona 83’), C. Byrne, A. Dervin, S. Meaney, V. Serdeniuk, K. O’Connor, G. O’Brien ( M. Boudiaf 83’), D. Lynch (J. Giurgi 77’).
Galway United travel to Athlone Town on Friday, 31st of March. Kick-off is at 7:45pm.
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