Galway United recorded their sixth win on the spin on Friday night in Eamonn Deacy Park as they continue to make the early running in the SSE Airtricity first division.
Despite a wet and windy night in Terryland, United started the contest brightly against visitors Longford, with Ronan Manning electric in the first half, winning a penalty inside two minutes. Unfortunately, Stephen Walsh could not provide the perfect start as Jack Brady saved his spot-kick comfortably.
Manning, Walsh and Ed McCarthy remained busy in the first half as United retained the upper hand, and Manning nearly netted a goal when he ghosted through the Longford defence, only for his shot to sail over.
Longford showed why they have won points this season as the side’s shape was solid, their interplay neat, and they had enough pace to carry a threat on the break. As a result they would have felt they had done enough to go in scoreless at the break.
United redoubled their efforts in the second half. Ibrahim Keita and Manning spurned decent chances in the opening 10 minutes. McCarthy’s outstanding early season form continued, but he was denied after a mazy dribble on the hour mark.
The introduction of United's Darren Clarke in the 71st minute proved pivotal. Four minutes later he received the ball on the left, cut inside and drilled a shot towards the back post that Viktor Serdeniuk turned into his own goal for a United lead.
Despite a late scare when United's Rob Slevin diverted a cross just wide, the single goal was enough to send United six points clear at the top.
Tomorrow, they face an Athlone team that has been fiercely competitive this season, but have lost two of their last five. Familiar foes Adam Lennon and Aaron Connolly will carry the fight in midfield for the midlanders. However, they have now been supplemented by a host of American signings who have injected real quality. Jamar Campion-Hinds and Frantz Pierrot have particularly caught the eye with five league goals between them so far.
United’s focus will undoubtedly be on themselves. The side has been settled and only disturbed by the injury to Regan Donelon and some tinkering up front with David Hurley, Francely Lomboto, Rob Manley and Ibrahim Keita all vying to support Walsh.
Darren Clarke’s contributions from the bench will not have gone unnoticed. However, McCarthy and Manning have both been in sensational form. This provides a positive dilemma out wide.
Conor O’Keeffe has deputised well for Donelon, whereas the rest of the positions seem secure despite there being real quality on the bench in the shape of Maurice Nugent and youngsters such as Steven Healy.
The strength of the squad is likely to be tested in the 30 games that remain, and this may begin tomorrow in Athlone.
•Galway United Friends' Co-op isrunning a bus to Friday's first division match at Athlone Town Stadium. The bus is leaving The Connacht Hotel, Dublin Road, Galway at 5.45pm, and picking up at The Maldron Hotel, Oranmore. To book a seat, contact Stephen Connolly (085 ) 2206645.