Thanks to a brace of goals from Arnold Luco and a solitary strike from Adam Ivers, Johnstown saw off the challenge of bottom side Navan Town in their O’Neills Sportswear Division 1 tie at the MDL on a freezing cold Friday night.
The home side’s first came with less than 100 seconds on the clock. Having initially lost the ball, Vinny Murphy regained possession with a determined tackle on half way and fed Lee Fahy. Fahy showed excellent vision and with a precise through ball released Arnold Luco, who streaked away from the defenders and coolly picked his spot across the keeper, opening the scoring.
Murphy almost doubled Johnstown’s lead just 2 minutes later. Great work on the right between Andre Sirb and Luco, saw the latter cross to the back post where the awaiting Murphy volleyed just wide.
It was not all one way traffic, and for the next 15 minutes, Navan Town looked more likely to equalise than Johnstown were to increase their lead. However, they never really troubled the Johnstown net.
With 26 minutes gone, the flash point which effectively decided the game arrived. After a clash on the half way line, Jamie Connolly and his opposite number went toe to toe and exchanged some verbals. All harmless and would have resulted in nothing more than a yellow apiece until have run 30 yards to get involved, a Navan Town front man blindsided Connolly with a shoulder in the back running at pace. The interloper saw red, literally and figuratively.
When the football resumed, Johnstown controlled what remained of the half with both Murphy and Halligan unlucky not to double their lead.
Navan Town did have a chance late on to make their hosts rue those missed opportunities. Having beaten the Johnstown back line, and faced with a 1-on-1 chance the front man pulled his effort wide and Johnstown survived to half time with a 1 goal lead.
10 minutes after the restart, Dan Halligan and Josh Gaffney combined well on the left resulting in a cross into the area where the awaiting Luco could only volley over from close range.
As the game entered its final quarter, Johnstown’s numerical advantage began to show. First a passage of play where numerous Johnstown players were lined up waiting to score, but none could dispatch their shot as Navan Town threw their bodies on the line, until Halligan, free on the left side of the area, hit his shot only to see it career back off the post.
Finally, the visitors’ resistance was broken with 19 minutes to go. Darren McQuillan began the move carrying the ball out from the back. Dan Halligan found Adam Ivers on the right. Facing down the keeper, Ivers’ first effort hit the post but luckily came straight back to him. He made no mistake the second time and put Johnstown 2 to the good.
2 minutes later, Johnstown were 3 up. A Bryan Gibney corner was thumped into the net by the head of Luco, a finish rarer than an honest politician.
On a bitterly cold night, the only one seemingly unaffected by the conditions was the referee who insisted on playing 7 minutes injury time despite the promised warmth of indoors. Eventually he blew the final whistle giving Johnstown their first win since September.
Johnstown FC Team: D. Shields, D. Bollard, J. Gaffney, D. McQuillan (c), J. Forde, J. Connolly, L. Fahy, V. Murphy, A. Sirb, D. Halligan, A. Luco
Subs: B. Gibney for Sirb, A. Ivers for Murphy, J. McDonnell for Gaffney, P. Dempsey for Halligan, W. Cahill for Bollard.