On Saturday Kerry FC looked to put more points on the board when they made the three-and-a-half-hour trip to Strokestown Road to face Longford Town. Coming into this Matchday seven fixture neither side were yet to pick up a win so far this season, making it a huge game in more ways than one.
The home side came into the fixture on the back of two 1-0 defeats at the hands of Galway United and Finn Harps, with Kerry being so close to picking up their first win of the season they would go into this fixture confident in doing so.
After the defeat at home to Athlone last Friday night, manager Billy Dennehy when speaking to the press described the game as a learning curve and a harsh lesson for his players as they defended their goal so well for most of the game only to come away empty handed. He also said in the buildup to this game they felt unlucky not to get their first win against Athlone as they kept an attacking mindset bringing on four attackers with twenty minutes to go in the game and were pushing for the winner themselves. Kerry knew coming into this game if they were able to start the way they did against Athlone, their chances
Longford started the first half the most attacking of the two sides and they got their reward after just ten minutes. A low pass into the final third was flicked on well by Derek Daly and found its way through to Josh Giurgi, he took the ball in his stride and dropped his shoulder to beat Shane Guthrie. His low shot into the bottom left corner was too powerful for Wayne Guthrie to keep out and Longford took the lead. Most would think after taking the lead that the home side would start to push on and kill off the game early, but they did the opposite. Kerry started to get a foothold on the game and showed good signs of getting the equalizer with a lot of possession.
Despite the pressure from Kerry, Longford had a couple closer chances as time went on. The first of which came on the half an hour mark when a long-range effort from Ben Lynch was saved well by Guthrie who got down fast to push the ball away. Just two minutes later the Kerry defense were nearly caught out again when Aodh Dervin gave a high through ball over the top which made its way through to Giurgi. Once again Guthrie was level to Giurgi’s efforts and showed great awareness to come off his line to collect the ball and keep Longford at bay.
In the first half, Kerry had a lot of set pieces whether it be corners or free kicks from close range, but they were not able to capitalise. As the game went on you felt if they did not take advantage of these it could cost them in the second half. Kerry’s best chance of the half came just before the half ended when a free kick from the left side of the box delivered by Graham O’Reilly was met by centre back Shane Guthrie. Unfortunately, Guthrie did not know much about it and his header went just wide of the right post and Longford felt relieved as they headed in at the break 1-0 up.
Kerry knew if they were going to get anything from this game, they would have to start the second half in a positive way and they did just that with a collection of chances. A good counterattack started with a pass taken in well by Leo Gaxha, he gave a decent low ball into the box which just needed a touch to get it into the back of the net. Fortunately for the Longford defense, the ball was just too far for either Nathan Gleeson or Ryan Kelliher to reach and it was eventually dealt with by The Town. Kerry made three very attacking changes just ten minutes into the second half to keep the pressure on Longford. One of the subs, Sean McGrath, who was excellent when he came on, had a great shot from outside the box saved by Jack Brady only eight minutes after his arrival onto the pitch. Mcgrath’s chance started a flurry of opportunities for Kerry.
The first of which was a similar chance for Leo Gaxha just a minute later, but his effort did not phase Brady in goal and the shot went wide of the left post. Kerry kept coming and their best possibility of a goal in the second half came from Nathan Gleeson, who was making himself a menace with his close control and speed for a lot of the game. A high ball into him in the box was taken well and he headed past two of the Longford defenders, his half-volleyed effort went just wide and looked to be in from some angles of the goal, but it was not to be.
With Kerry’s intense pressure you would wonder if they might be caught on the break by Longford’s attack, and to the travelling supporters’ dismay, they were. In the closing stages of the game, Josh Giurgi took a shot from about 25 yards out with space and his low shot bounced just in front of Guthrie which was too powerful for the keeper to push away. The second goal cushion was enough for Longford as they went away 2-0 victors.
Kerry would be disappointed not to take advantage of set pieces they had throughout the game but the strong defensive setup they have acquired will give them a great starting foundation to find ways of breaking down sides in other areas of the pitch. Hopefully, they can start this next Friday as they are back at home again against Donegal side Finn Harps who make a long trip down to Mounthawk.
Kerry FC Team:
1. Wayne Guthrie, 27. Graham O’reilly, 4. Shane Guthrie, 15. Kevin Williams, 4. Shane Guthrie, 24. Jonathan Hannafin, 3. Sean O’connell, 8. Matt Keane (C), 17. Nathan Gleeson, 23. Ronan Teahan, 10. Leo Gaxha, 9. Ryan Kelliher
Subs: Callan Scully, Cian Barrett, Rob Vasiu, Alex Ainscough, Cormac Buckley, Kennedy Amechi, Cian Brosnan, Sean Kennedy, Sean Mcgrath.
Longford Town Team: J. Brady, S. Elworthy, D. Daly (Jamal Ibrahim 90’), G. Armstrong, C. Byrne, A. Dervin, O. Hand, V. Serdeniuk, K. O’connor, J. Giurgi (Goal 10’, 90’), B. Lynch.