Elmes strikes again
TOM ELMES'S 40th-minute strike proved to be enough to see Wexford Youths pick up their first away win of the season in Ballybofey on Saturday evening last.
The league's leading scorer, having bagged four in the season opener against Waterford, collected a James Dermody slide-rule pass inside the Finn Harps penalty area, side-stepped two defenders and blasted Youths into fourth place in the Division 1 table from eight yards out.
Whether the victory was warranted or not was another matter. Youths did create the game's three most clearcut chances but strangely, other than that, were a little disjointed in the opposition half. Finn Harps, on the other hand, pushed Graham Doyle to the limit on several occasions but never really sliced Wexford open.
The first-half mirrored the opening period from Youths' previous away day in Galway. There was very little by way of chances to note until Elmes' strike.
The visitors tried to play the ball on the deck, but they struggled to play through midfield owing to the fact that there was rarely more than two Youths men in the middle third when they had possession. Wingers Dean Broaders and Aidan Keenan pushed right up with Elmes when Youths had the ball, meaning there was rarely an out-ball for the defence, or deep-lying Shane Dempsey in midfield.
The only two half-chances before Elmes' opener came from Harps as Thomas Mcmonagle headed over from eight yards when he should have done better and, three minutes before Wexford went ahead, Adam Clarke saw his shot pushed around the post by Doyle.
Elmes showed real class in his build-up play and near-post finish to put his side ahead, but that lead was tested again when Doyle pushed over Clarke's softly-won free-kick in the 44th minute.
It was a quiet start to the second-half as Wexford looked content about the way the game was panning out. An excellent Ciarán Coll cross was headed over by Clarke in the 56th minute before Doyle saved again from Thomas Mcbride.
Then Youths really should have went two ahead and it was Elmes again, almost singlehandedly, doing the damage. The rangy striker looked hemmed in at the corner-flag but he fought his way out and rounded the centre-half, then the 'keeper, only to be tripped by the flailing hand of Gallagher.
The ball immediately came to Shane Nolan who drilled wide off the outside of the post and, as it skidded off the side-netting, the Youths players looked at the referee aghast as he made the advantage sign and waved away stunned appeals.
Finn Harps, buoyed by the let-off, pushed forward and saw a few half-chances come and go quickly, but with 15 minutes remaining the impetus looked to be draining out of the home side and Wexford looked comfortable.
With two minutes left Dean Broaders shot over when one-on-one withthe final defender. It looked like it wouldn't matter when Shane Nolan was felled inside the box and the referee pointed, this time, to the spot.
Shane Dempsey stepped up to take the kick but his effort was weak and was well smothered by Gallagher. Yet it mattered little as Youths comfortably held on to continue in an upward direction.
Wexford Youths: Graham Doyle; Brian Nolan, Jamie Carr, C.J. Browne, James Dermody; Shane Dempsey, John Yeates; Dean Broaders, Shane Nolan, Aidan Keenan; Tom Elmes. Subs. - James Scallon for Browne, inj. (63), Patsy Malone for Yeates (68), also Mark Phelan, Shane Corcoran, Shane Clarke, Thomas Croke, Cormac O'brien.
Finn Harps: Ciarán Gallagher; Thomas Bonnar, Aaron O'hagan, Thomas Mcmonagle, Ciarán Coll; Hugh Carlin, Thomas Mcbride, Seán Mcgowen, Ciarán Greene; Adam Clarke, Kevin Mchugh. Subs. - James Doherty for Mcmonagle (50), also Peter Hutton, Barry O'mahoney, Shaun Patton, Paul Mcveigh.
Referee: Conor Fitzgerald (Galway).