Ten-man Youths in first loss to league leaders Longford
WEXFORD YOUTHS' dream of returning to the top of the table vanished in dramatic circumstances when going under by one goal to leaders Longford Town in this top of the table clash played in front of 289 supporters at Ferrycarrig Park on Friday night last.
Their dream seemed to be buried as early as the 14th minute when they had striker Danny Furlong straight red-carded following a verbal exchange with the referee. When they fell a goal adrift to a superior visiting outfit it looked a long road ahead, but when they got back level within two minutes, their ten-man side looked to have given themselves a real chance of taking something from the game.
But even before Furlong's dismissal it was evident that Longford looked a superior outfit as they played the ball about with accuracy and speed, creating huge amounts of space down the respective flanks. They peppered the Wexford penalty area with long and accurate crosses, and it was only desperate defending that saw the home side keep their goal intact, while 'keeper Graham Doyle also had to make a couple of fine saves. Such was the visitors' dominance, the home side could only mount one attack during this spell and it was becoming increasingly difficult to take any positives out of their game.
Longford forced three corners inside the opening seven minutes, while on eleven minutes it was only the outstretched leg of 'keeper Doyle that kept out Karl Bermingham's shot which seemed destined for the corner of the net. After 31 minutes, Longford Town eventually took a deserved lead when Daniel Purdy, having cut into the right side of the area, drove low to the right-hand corner of the net, giving 'keeper Doyle no chance.
Within two minutes the home side were amazingly back level. Longford's former Manchester United regular Keith Gillespie was penalised for handball, leaving Shane Dempsey to neatly tuck away the resulting penalty for the leveller.
At the opposite end Doyle made a good onehanded save from Shaw, while right on half-time the Youths should have taken the lead but Tom Elmes, finding himself in a one-on-one with 'keeper Craig Hyland, blazed over the top from five metres when it seemed easier to score, leaving it 1-1 at the interval.
And the mountain became even steeper for Wexford Youths as the visitors laid siege to their goal during the opening 20 minutes on the resumption. Alan Kirby, finding himself in a good position, saw his rising shot go just wide. In a period of total dominance Longford were unable to regain the lead despite continuing to probe in front of goal.
Wexford Youths were unable to relieve the pressure as they were totally outplayed in midfield. Finally after 65 minutes the Youths defence was prised wide open, leaving Karl Bermingham to cut in from the right before delivering a low shot across 'keeper Doyle into the opposite corner of the net.
The home side had to resort to thumping long clearances forward in an effort to get out of their own half, but with Elmes a lone figure up front they never threatened Hyland in the visitors' goal.
Longford were reduced to ten players on 82 minutes when Keith Gillespie was straight red-carded, but it was never going to alter the result as the visitors remained in control to go on and increase their lead at the top of the table.
The Youths' league campaign continues with the long trip to Finn Park, Ballybofey, on Saturday, March 24, when they take on Finn Harps.
And Monday next sees them on the road again, travelling to Turner's Cross where they play Cork City in the first round of the EA Sports Cup.
With so much time being spent on the road, it promises to be an arduous 72 hours for Shane Keegan's men who will no doubt be chiefly concerned with getting back to winning ways in their league campaign.