Goal poacher Lee gives Ross Celtic a slight edge
FERNS UNITED 0 NEW ROSS CELTIC 1
MARK LEE showed his goalscoring instinct once again as his clinical firsthalf finish proved sufficient to give his side three crucial points over a battling Ferns Utdnited outfit in this Wexford Football League Premier Division clash in Ferns on Saturday morning last.
Both sides sit in mid-table desperately in need of points to move them away from the end of season relegation struggle. The three points gave New Ross Celtic a real lift and moved them into the top half of the table, but this home defeat leaves Ferns still desperately in need of points so as to preserve their Premier Division status.
Mark Lee won it for the Barrowsiders, like so many times in the past. His finishing from close in was clinical but few expected that just one goal would prove sufficient to decide the eventual destination of the points.
However, Ferns United through a period of early second-half dominance were wasteful in front of goal, while during the closing stages they also created several chances to even take a point from the game, but their lack of composure cost them dearly.
When it came to finishing, Ferns were by far the guiltier side, but that should not take from this New Ross Celtic display. With a mixture of youth and experience, the side is going through a real transition having lost some quality players, but manager 'Brad' O'neill is continuing to move them along, gaining valuable points along the way.
He will be happy to finish in the top half of the table, leaving them ready to launch a more serious next season.
Both sides opened with a real tempo about their play. New Ross Celtic were enjoying a solid start as they continued to build out of midfield through the experience of Michael Grangel and Johnny Mullett, while the youthful Stephen O'leary was playing excellently at leftback.
Ferns also sought to bring real tempo to their play with Tommy Dwyer, Martin Redmond and Tomás Hawkins providing a real launching pad out of midfield. There was quite a deal of drama through the opening 20 minutes, with Robert Vickers going very close on a couple of occasions to putting the home side in front with well-directed shots that went just the wrong side of the post.
Grangel threatened the home side with strong runs out of midfield, while Stephen O'neill and Mark Lee provided the real threat up front. Eventually the
title bid come deadlock was broken after 35 minutes when Damien Cullen slipped a great through ball into the path of Mark Lee who finished clinically from ten metres, with his low shot beating 'keeper John Doyle at his near post.
Both sides created a couple of half chances in the lead-up to the break, with Johnny Dwyer driving a great chance into the side-netting.
Ferns United could have done better during a 20-minute period of dominance on the resumption. A long-range free from Derek Thorpe flew just wide, but while their approach work continued to be excellent, their finishing failed to match, as Johnny Dwyer, Robert Vickers and Martin Redmond all pulled great chances across the face of the goal and wide.
The visitors' back four was standing up to the pressure, with Stephen O'leary and Brian Mullett being particularly outstanding. Having weathered the early second-half storm, they went on to build some menacing attacks of their own, with both Lee and Grangel seeing great efforts go just wide.
As the final whistle approached the home side laid siege to the visitors' goal, forcing successive corners, but credit to the Ross boys as they stood firm to take all three points.