After the disappointment of losing to promotion rivals Cork City last weekend, Shelbourne bounced back in terrific fashion with a deserved win at Flancare Park against Longford Town on Saturday night.
With Cork dropping points last night this win now sees Shels nine points clear at the top of the First Division table and it looks highly unlikely that anyone will knock them off their perch.
For the Town it’s their second successive 3-1 defeat at home (they lost their last game to Cork City three weeks ago). Shels deserved the win but the Town were still architects of their own downfall; conceding an own goal just before the break and then missing a few opportunities to get back into the game in the opening exchanges of the second half.
The opening twenty minutes of this game were very open with neither side dominating proceedings and there was very little in terms of goalmouth action. The first chance of the game came in the 11th minute; David Cassidy whipped in a corner from the left but it was cleared off the line by one of Town's smallest players Cathal Brady. The ball came out to Andy Boyle but Town keeper Paul Hunt was able to gather.
Shels took the lead in the 25th minute when Cassidy finished off Lorcan Fitzgerald's cross. But Town responded in superb fashion getting back on level terms within a minute of conceding that goal; Austin Skelly played the ball to Don Cowan who made no mistake.
Those goals brought the game to life and both teams really went for it. Craig Walsh had an opportunity from a free-kick just minutes after Cowan’s goal but his effort failed to really test Dean Delaney.
Four minutes from the break Shels regained the lead and it was tough on the Town; Cassidy floated a cross into the box, Town defender Des Hope stooped to head it clear and it hit him on the back of the head and went in. It was hard to take for both the player and the Town, and so near half-time too.
Literally just seconds into the second half Cowan had a glorious opportunity to level matters for the Town; he pounced on a poor back pass from Andy Boyle to Delaney but shot inches wide when the goal was at his mercy.
Cowan squandered another glorious opportunity in the 57th minute. Boyle and Stephen Paisley let the ball go between them which Cowan got to, he was through on goal but instead of playing the ball wide of Delaney he lost his footing and the Shels keeper was able to gather before colliding with the striker.
That miss came back to haunt the Town three minutes later when Shels extended their lead. Hunt brought off an excellent save to deny ex Town boy Paisley but the ball fell to Conan Byrne who made no mistake from close range. Byrne has now scored in every game against the Town this season.
Hunt thwarted Byrne from grabbing his second of the game in the 73rd minute; Cassidy broke into the box and squared the ball to Byrne but the Town netminder pulled off a fantastic save to deny him.
Town manager Tony Cousins gave debuts to new signings James O’Brien and Daniel Purdy but after Shels had scored their third goal it was always going to be hard for the Town to get back into the game. Neither side managed to create anything of note in the final quarter of the game but Shels had the points wrapped up at that stage.
Longford Town: Paul Hunt; Chris Deans, Thomas Hyland, Des Hope, Mike Lee; Cathal Brady (James O’Brien 66), Mark Salmon, Craig Walsh, Thomas Crawley; Don Cowan (Daniel Purdy 79), Austin Skelly (Jean Biamsumba 63).
Subs not used: Graham Dowling, Jeff Flood, Alan McGreal, Alvin Rouse.
Bookings: Mark Salmon (14), Don Cowan (74).
Shelbourne: Dean Delaney; Gareth Mathews, Lorcan Fitzgerald, Andy Boyle, Stephen Paisley; Colm James, Conan Byrne, David Cassidy (Kevin Dawson 81), Sean Byrne; Philip Hughes (David da Silva 86), Karl Bermingham (Chris Mulhall 61).
Subs not used: Barry Clancy, Brendan McGill, Ian Ryan, Paul Skinner.
Bookings: Conan Byrne (23), Stephen Paisley (39), David Cassidy (44).
Referee: Phil Caschera (Dublin).
Attendance: 300 (estimate).
Extratime.ie man of the match: David Cassidy (Shelbourne): Was instrumental in this win.
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