Limerick FC 3-3 Longford Town
LIMERICK FC were unable to extend their winning run to a fourth game on Monday night against Longford Town, but the Super Blues played their part in yet another goal-laden affair, their last five matches producing no fewer than 28 goals.
The home side raced into a 2-0 lead inside 20 minutes through Ian Turner and Shane Tracy, but had been pegged back by half-time. Robbie Williams put Limerick back in front on the hour mark before Stephen Rice ensured that the spoils were shared at a raucous Markets Field.
Dean Clarke warmed the gloves of Paul Hunt with a sixth-minute effort and Paudie O’Connor headed over the bar from six yards from a Limerick corner.
The deadlock was broken after 14 minutes when Turner jinked past his opponent and surged into the penalty area before firing low into the far corner for the first goal of the night.
Just four minutes later it was 2-0 to the hosts, Longford clearing it only as far as Tracy, who let fly from 20 yards with a bullet of a strike that Hunt had no chance of saving.
The in-form Limerick seemed in full control at that stage, but the visitors battled hard to make sure the game didn’t slip beyond them and if Gary Shaw’s 21st-minute header had been stronger, Freddy Hall would have been beaten.
The Bermudan’s clean sheet disappeared after half an hour when Aymen Ben Mohamed’s corner met the head of the unmarked Rhys Gorman, who directed it into the top corner and, following a rare moment of stunned silence at Markets Field, Longford were back in it.
Limerick then had to defend two corners in quick succession before Vinny Faherty, so impressive of late, spurned a free header from a Turner delivery when he looked primed to score.
As good as the Super Blues have been going forward in recent weeks, defensively they have been breached too often and the manner of Longford’s 42nd-minute equaliser was sure to have irked manager Martin Russell.
A lapse in concentration allowed Mark Salmon the opportunity to strike from the edge of the penalty area and despite three Limerick players racing back in an attempt to clear it off the line, Tony Cousins’ team were level in a game that could have been cut and dried had Limerick been more ruthless at either end of the pitch.
The home side looked jittery at the start of the second half and there was a scare when Shaw bore down on goal, but he could only shoot straight at Hall when an effort either side of the goalkeeper was bound for the net.
On 54 minutes it was Limerick’s turn to pass up a gaping opportunity, Lee-J Lynch’s cross finding Clarke, who headed over the bar with the goal at his mercy.
The influential Lynch hobbled off just before the hour mark but it was in the 61st minute that the home side retook the lead. Shane Duggan curled a cross into Williams, who stooped to head it beyond Hunt for 3-2.
Within minutes there was almost further damage done to the visitors, Hunt firstly producing a point-blank save from Clarke and then Faherty volleying over from eight yards.
This see-saw game took yet another twist with 20 minutes remaining. Longford won a debatable free kick which was whipped in by Conor Powell to Rice, who looped a well-placed header over Hall and into the Limerick net to tie the match once more.
Both teams were adventurous in their pursuit of what would have been a winning goal, but the best Limerick could muster was a couple of wild efforts from Paul O’Conor and Williams. With Hall having precious little to do thereafter, a tumultuous match ended 3-3, a draw probably a fair result considering the good and bad habits of both teams.
The draw extended Limerick’s unbeaten run to four games and kept Longford very much in the relegation mix, but with Sligo Rovers winning, the Super Blues fell six points adrift at the bottom and this felt like two points dropped. With eight games still left, though, there is time for Limerick to haul themselves off the foot of the table – if they can just keep the back door locked.
Limerick FC: Hall; O’Conor, O’Connor, Williams, Tracy; Lynch (Kelly 59), Duggan; Turner, Russell, Clarke; Faherty.
Longford Town: Hunt; Mulhall, Rossiter, Gorman, Powell; O’Connor; Shannon, Rice, Salmon (Gannon 85), Ben Mohamed (Kelly 58); Shaw.
Referee: Ben Connolly (Dublin)