Advantage Longford as they stage another remarkable comeback
Bray fail to push on after striker Jason Byrne had given them a 2-0 lead
Bray’s Jason Byrne lobs the keeper for his side’s second goal. Photograph: James Crombie/Inpho
Bray Wanderers 2 Longford Town 2: Not content with Friday night’s drama, Longford Town produced another remarkable comeback last night at the Carlisle Grounds, where second-half strikes by Dean Ebbe and David O’Sullivan gave them a slight edge over Bray at the half-way point in this play-off and left Pat Devlin’s men with a bit to do in three days time if they are to manage a 10th straight year in the top flight.
Wanderers can have few complaints for while they dominated their opponents for a long time, and must have thought they were on course for a fairly comfortable win, Longford surprised them over the closing half an hour with their energy and enterprise, a combination that could well propel them to promotion if only they can muster a bit of both for 90 minutes on Friday.
The late revival was all the more impressive given that the effort involved in last Friday’s extended encounter with Mervue looked to be taking its toll early on here. Des Hope limped out of the game clutching his hamstring almost before it was properly underway and Gary Shaw was gone before the break too. More than that, though, there seemed to be a general fatigue.
In his element
Ismahil Akinade, for a start, looked far more comfortable here than he sometimes has this season while Jason Byrne was simply in his element. Given space in which to roam, the veteran striker provided a hugely effectively focus to the home side’s attacking moves. More than once he created chances for others, slipping a ball to Akinade whose shot was well saved by Chris Bennion before Gary Dempsey’s follow-up was blocked by Noel Haverty.
By then, however, Byrne had already grabbed a chance of his own, heading home from close range after a Kevin O’Connor shot against the bar had fallen kindly for him. There was more to do for his second, just over half an hour in, but the former Shelbourne striker did it neatly, stealing a couple of yards on his marker as Gary Dempsey gently lobbed the ball over the visiting centre halves and then waiting for the bounce before lobbing it again himself over Bennion and into the far corner.
At that point Bray looked almost sure to push on and build an unassailable advantage. Longford’s only real chance of note was a powerful long-range effort Darren Quigley did very well to keep out.
However, the visitors came out for the second half and turned things completely around. It took a while and either side might actually have added a goal or two during a tremendously open spell of end-to-end football. Gradually, though, it was Longford who started to get on top, with young Josh O’Hanlon an influential figure.
The teenager laid on his side’s first which came after a quick break that left the home side shorthanded at the back and Ebbe with time and space to line up a low drive from the right that beat Quigley on the way to the corner.
Nerves then began to play their part then and six minutes from time David O’Sullivan grabbed his 24th league goal of the season with a hooked volley from inside the area after Bray had dealt poorly with a free.
BRAY WANDERERS: Quigley; Doyle, S O’Connor, Webster, Zambra (Earley, 38 mins); K O’Connor, Maher (Mulroy, 72 mins); Waters, Dempsey, Akinade; Byrne.
LONGFORD TOWN: Bennion; Haverty, Deans, Hope (Doyle, 7 mins), Quinn; Ebbe (O’Brien, 80 mins), Connolly, Gorman, Purdy; O’Sullivan, Shaw (O’Hanlon, 32 mins).
Referee: Graham Kelly (Cork).