Injury hit Longford face bottom side Wexford FC at City Calling Stadium
Prior to the start of the 2017 season, not too many would have envisaged this meeting of Longford Town and Wexford FC as being a bottom-of the table encounter, however after respective poor runs of form nothing more than pride is realistically on the line in the Midlands on Saturday night (kick-off 7:30PM).
Alan Mathews Longford Town team come into this home-tie off the back of a horrendous couple of weeks which has saw "De Town" go not only four games in all competitions without a win but also without scoring a single goal. The last time the "Red and Black" of Longford successfully found the back of the opposition net was on April 29th, in the now infamous Midlands derby against Athlone Town as Enda Curran bagged a hat-trick. That result had saw the Midlands outfit claim back to back home wins for the first-time in 2017, however hopes of a treble failed dramatically when UCD left with all three points and 1-0 win just a fortnight ago.
Last Friday's defeat away to league leaders Waterford FC, also a 1-0 scoreline, sees "De Town" enter this weekends round of fixtures an astonishing fifteen-points off the pace, with manager Alan Mathews admitting it is now extremely unlikely his side will play Premier Division football next season.
What of Wexford FC? Well, the South-East outfit may also rule themselves out of contention for a chair at the table of Irish football's elite next season, even if Friday's first win of the season over Shelbourne has lifted spirits dramatically around Ferrycarrig Park. Thomas Croke's deflected fourth-minute strike was enough to earn Damien Locke's men their first league win in thirteen and coincidentally a first win under the banner of Wexford FC, having controversially rebranded from the Wexford Youths brand in pre-season.
Despite that horrific start to the new season, only six points separate Wexford FC and both Midlands clubs at the foot of the First Division table, with Longford only ahead of arch-rivals Athlone on goal difference. With all of the sagas currently engulfing the Lissywoolen based club at present, it really is an indictment of just how poor Longford Town's first half of the season has been. Given the resources available to Alan Mathews in the off-season, especially compared to the likes of Athlone and Saturday's opponents Wexford, its easy to see why critics of the former Bray Wanderers, Cork City and Drogheda United boss are beginning to raise their voices.
Undoubtedly, injuries have played a part in Longford's down-fall this season and ahead of tomorrow's game at "CCS", "De Town" must plan without the services of six first-team players. Recovering from knocks picked up in recent weeks and still unable to resume senior duties are strikers David O'Sullivan, Cody Mulhall and Don Cowan, while Enda Curran and Mark Langtry will also look on from the stands after going off injured last Friday. In slightly more positive news for followers of Longford Town, long-time servant and full-back Noel Haverty has finally resumed training this week, having gone off injured after just three-minutes in the season-opener at Tolka Park back in March. However, all of that still means "De Town" will line out against Wexford without a recognised centre-forward, with Jake Kelly occupying the role following Curran's early exit at the RSC on Friday. With Alan Mathews charges already the second lowest goalscorers in the country (9) (only Wexford have scored less (6)), it's hard to see where the goals are going to come from.
Wexford are not without their own selection issues ahead of this wooden-spoon battle with Ricky Fox unavailable through suspension, while Shane Dunne (hamstring) and Adam Hanlon, who hasn't trained this week after experiencing a re-occurance of the hip injury that kept him out of the Waterford game, are also unlikely to feature. Sean Hurley missed the win against Shelbourne last week, but has trained well this week and is back in contention for a start.
Speaking to www.wexfordfc.ie ahead of Saturday's showdown, Ferrycarrig Park supremo Damien Locke stated: "We're really looking forward to the trip, we've played really well in recent weeks, and it was only a matter of time before the win came. We hope that we can kick on now, and get another few wins on the board".
The only previous meeting between the two sides this season came in the South-East in April as a scoreless draw was played out at a near deserted Ferrycarrig Park. Given the two clubs fortunes on and off the field so far this campaign, don't be surprised to see similar outcomes both results and attendance wise on Saturday night, especially with the FA Cup Final in England taking centre-stage.
PREDICTION: Longford Town 0-0 Wexford FC
Longford: 4/6 Draw: 13/5 Wexford FC: 4/1
Referee: David Berry Assistant 1: Darren Corcoran Assistant 2: Robert Dowling Fourth Official: Ray Matthews