Report by Kieran Burke
First Division promotion chasers Longford Town took on a Manchester United XI in a pre-season friendly for the English side at Flancare Park last night with the Midlanders coming out on the wrong side of a 1-0 scoreline in an entertaining encounter at a packed Flancare Park.
There was a huge sense of anticipation in the Midlands region in the build up to this game and that could clearly be seen with the 1,500 seater stand in Flancare Park almost full half an hour before kick-off. While the names on the Manchester United team sheet were largely unrecognisable they took control of the early stages of the game impressing many with their free-flowing one touch football that at times resembled a Barcelona training session.
The home side tried hard to get in the face of the United XI players when in possession but that determination turned to over-eagerness as Willo McDonagh gave away a cheap free-kick on a slick and slippy Flancare Park surface. The free-kick appeared to be in a position of no danger but this is where United would show their ability not only with the ball but with their quick thinking abilities as the free-kick was taken in the blink of an eye with the very talented Mats Daehli going on a 20 plus yard solo run before firing into the top corner of the net to give the visitors an early 8th minute advantage.
Fears of a heavy beating for the hosts began to run through the minds of many but to Tony Cousin's sides credit they came back fighting with left-back Micheal Lee the leader of many of those attacks. One such attack in the 11th minute saw Lee storm down the left hand-side before being brought down on the edge of the area. From the resulting free-kick Gary Shaw was somehow denied by United XI goalkeeper Jonny Sutherland after a clever low free-kick from Daniel Purdy had caused chaos in the visitors penalty area.
However, it was to be a case of what you can do I can do better two minutes later when former Shamrock Rovers goalkeeper Craig Hyland produced two extremely athletic saves to deny the English side.
A slight lull then took place over proceedings as injuries and substations disrupted play but shortly after Longford Town were yet
again denied an equalizer as the hard working Gary Shaw scooped his snapshot onto the top the United crossbar to the disappointment of the loyal home supporters.
There was still more chances to come in an action packed first half as Hyland produced yet another fantastic save to deny Gladstony's low shot which had again been set up by Norwegian winger and earlier goalscorer Mats Daehli.
There were changes for both sides at half time as Town goalkeeper Craig Hyland made way for Paul Hunt while key midfielder Mark Salmon was also introduced for the team in red and black. As for Manchester United they decided to introduce Agnaldo and Barmby for Lawrence and Gladstony.
Agnaldo's impact was immediate as he set up perhaps one of the reserves better known players in Joshua King who raced down the right hand side evading strong challenge after strong challenge only to be denied by the fresh Town goalkeeper Paul Hunt.
Longford Town then began to really take control of the game as the team lying 2nd in the First Division played out from the back time after time slowly working their way up the field with an impressive patient passing build up not always seen by teams playing in Irish football's second tier.
This impressive build up play lead to several second half chances for "De Town" with Tony Griffiths having the first and second of those chances. Griffiths must still be wondering how he failed to score the first opportunity after he took the ball down wonderfully inside the United penalty area only to blast over in a one-on-one position. His second chance to get the home side on level terms came shortly after when his header from a Daniel Purdy free-kick was cleared off the line by Manchester United goalscorer Daehli who stuck to his task well on the near post.
As Longford continued to push for what would have been a well deserved equalizer they left far too much space at the back with half time substitute Agnaldo some how being denied by the impressive Paul Hunt before putting the ball wide of the goals to the astonishment of everyone in the ground.
Longford Town under-19 player Dean Cosgrave had long range efforts late on while the very impressive number 17 on the night Mark Salmon gave United some real scares at times, only to lose his footing at a crucial time towards the end of a mazy run on goals.
The full time whistle went with Longford Town on the ball as they had been most of the night and despite the result the First Division side are sure to take great heart in what was a fantastic night for football in the Midlands region with a crowd of 2,100 turning out to view proceedings on a wet but wonderful night for football.
Next game - Friday 27th July, SD Galway VS Longford Town - Airtricity League First Division - Terryland Park, 7-45pm KO
Anyone interested in travelling to the game in Galway this coming Friday please text Liam on 0876141926 by Wednesday evening,