Andrew Dempsey reports from Stradbrook Road
Longford Town have all but confirmed their spot in the First Division playoff positions this evening thanks to a 3-0 win over Cabinteely.
Longford will perhaps feel fortunate to an extent to leave the South Dublin venue with a three-nil win, but they will undoubtedly be pleased with the result.
Matthew O’Brien gave Town a first-half lead before Rob Manley scored a second-half brace to seal the deal for the Red and Black.
The result moves Daire Doyle’s charges to within a point of Drogheda United in second, while remain in fifth position on goal difference.
Cabinteely came into the Friday evening showdown against their playoff following a vital last gasp 2-1 win away to Cobh Ramblers.
They made two changes from the win over the St Colman’s Park side as Kieran Marty Waters and Zak O’Neill came in for Vilius Labutis and Luke Clucas.
On the other hand, Longford, who came into the game reeling from their 6-2 loss at home to Galway United – made three changes with Dean Byrne being the notable re-inclusion to the side.
Cabinteely had the first effort on goal of the game, but Keith Dalton shot over the bar after 14 minutes.
Daire Doyle’s charges then grew into the game after a quiet opening, with the returning Byrne having their first effort on goal of the game.
And they would take the lead minutes later in scarcely believable circumstances through midfielder Matthew O’Brien.
O’Brien’s cross turned shot went between the legs of Cabo keeper Corey Chambers and into the net as the 17-year-old scored his first ever senior League of Ireland goal.
The South Dubliners reacted well to going a goal behind however, but their only real threat came in the form of set-pieces.
Longford, who have shown a vulnerability from set-piece routines in recent games, stood firm however – with Joe Manley and Mick McDonnell standing tall to deny the hosts.
The Red and Black however went in at the break ahead despite there being a low number of chances created by both sides.
Sensing his side were not creating enough in an attacking sense, Cabo boss Pat Devlin made a tactical switch to a 3-5-2 shape.
And it nearly yielded its rewards just three minutes into the second period, but Lee Steacy was on hand to claw away Marty Waters’ goal-bound header after a Kevin Knight cross.
Cabo continued to impress as the early stages of the second-half rolled on, with Shane Barnes next to go close but his shot was blocked by a Longford Town defender.
Zak O’Neill then went close for the hosts – but his shot on goal rose over the bar when it looked like it was easier to hit the target.
The visitors then went close through former Cabo striker Rob Manley – but Manley could only pull his effort wide of goal from just outside the six-yard box.
Manley was found free inside the penalty area after O’Brien’s shot from the edge of the box was parried by Chambers – but he could not fire home.
Despite struggling for large parts of the second-half – Town made sure of the three points with just under ten minutes to play as Rob Manley slotted home from the spot.
The ex-Cabo frontman was adjudged to have been fouled by Conor Keeley – despite an innocuous coming together – and he made no mistake from the spot.
Byrne had a great chance to make it three just seconds later – but he could only shoot wide after an incisive Longford counter-attack.
But just moments later, Longford would get their goal on the break, as Rob Manley grabbed his second of the night.
He was almost denied by a last-ditch tackle by Knight, but he wriggled free and rounded off the win for a Longford Town side who have all but consolidated their position in the First Division playoffs.
Cabinteely: Corey Chambers; Daniel Blackbyrne, Jonny Carlin (Luke Clucas 76), Conor Keeley, Kevin Knight; Jack Connolly (Dylan Thornton 46), Keith Dalton (Shane Barnes 32), Paul Fox (Steven Kinsella 76), Eoin Massey (Vilius Labutis 46), Zak O'Neill; Kieran Marty Waters.
Subs not used: Mitchell Byrne, Benjamin Clark.
Booked: Eoin Massey (23), Daniel Blackbyrne (81), Dylan Thornton (90).
Sent off: None.
Longford Town: Lee Steacy; Shane Elworthy, Joseph Manley, Michael McDonnell, Aaron McNally; Aodh Dervin, Dylan Hand, Matthew O'Brien (Karl Chambers 74); Dean Byrne (Niall Barnes 85), Adam Evans (Lido Lotefa 87), Rob Manley.
Subs not used: Luke Dennison, Joe Gorman, Dylan Grimes, Aaron McCabe.
Booked: Matthew O'Brien (51)
Sent off: None.
Referee: Robert Harvey
ExtraTime.ie Player of the Match: Joe Manley (Longford Town).