Youths fill second spot
WEXFORD YOUTHS ATHLONE TOWN
DANNY FURLONG struck in the 59th minute to send Wexford Youths into second place in the League of Ireland Division 1 table in Athlone Town Stadium on Friday night last.
The Rosslare man, who had struggled with the home team's offside trap all night, finally timed his run to perfection to dart in on goal, round 'keeper Pat Jennings and slot into an empty net.
It was just desserts for the visitors who showed the greater initiative from the start and now have their eyes firmly fixed on a promotion battle.
Youths made one change from the side that beat Mervue a week previous, with Craig Wall coming into the midfield in place of Shane Nolan.
The new-look midfield started off brightly as Dean Broaders hared down the left wing and centred to the front post where Tommy Barrett was waiting to stab a clearance onto his own post.
After the initial burst, Athlone settled and tried to knock the ball around a bit without ever looking a threat. The visitors soaked up the pressure well and set about enforcing their style of play on the opposition.
Danny Furlong's early flirtations with the assistant's flag started when Tom Elmes slid him clear in the 26th minute, only for the luminous waver to flow with the striker in on goal.
If there was inches in the offside decision, the same could be said for Shane Dempsey's freekick two minutes later.
Elmes was the man causing the mayhem again, this time fouled in the process of shooting. Wexford town man Dempsey stepped up to the deadball and curled a superb effort over the wall and down, but inches wide of the left post.
Youths continued to look the most likely scorers as the half went on and they did have the ball in the net in the 33rd minute when Elmes slotted home, only for it to be ruled out for offside against the Youths forward.
The visitors did have one scare on the half-time whistle when Mark Walsh breezed past C.J. Browne inside the Wexford box but, fortunately for the defender, Walsh slipped as he was about to square to an unmarked Noel Mcgee and the sides went in level at the interval.
The game really started to open up after the resumption but Youths still looked the most likely scorers.
Tom Elmes broke in behind the defence when Aidan Keenan was felled in the 49th minute, however his effort was well covered by Jennings. Yet, there was no stopping Furlong ten minutes later as he broke onto a Keenan flicked header from Graham Doyle's punt forward to give Wexford the lead.
Athlone came more into the match after the goal and Mcgee stung Doyle's fingers with a powerful drive, while at the other end Furlong drilled an effort narrowly wide that would have wrapped up victory.
Mark Sherlock saw his penalty claims waved away in the 85th minute and, as Youths recovered from the let-off, Mcgee sent a rocket effort onto the crossbar while Williamson volleyed the rebound, at an open goal, into the side-netting.
Once that nervy 60 seconds passed, Youths played out the rest of the game without incident and now look forward to a home clash with thirdplaced Limerick on Friday night.
It has been a tremendous start to the new season to date for Shane Keegan's eager young side, and this promises to be another acid test.
Graham Doyle; Brian Nolan, Jamie Carr, C.J. Browne, James Dermody; Aidan Keenan, Shane Dempsey, Craig Wall, Dean Broaders; Danny Furlong, Tom Elmes. SUBS: Shane Nolan for Furlong (88), also James Scallon, Martin Kehoe, Shaun Corcoran, Paul Malone, Thomas Croke, Cormac O'brien.
Pat Jennings; Joe Woods, Tommy Barrett, Brian Mccarthy, Ross Kenny; Darren Coleman, Warren Conroy, Jason Hughes, Noel Mcgee; Mark Walsh, Mark Sherlock. SUBS: Kevin Williamson for Conroy (46), Garvan Broughall for Woods (56, inj.), Val Feeney for Coleman (75), also Brian Gill, Paul Danaher, Niall Scullion, Brian Collopy. VENUE: Athlone Town Stadium. REFEREE: Kevin O'regan (Kerry).