Cabo claim two-goal win as Wexford four points adrift at foot of league
SSE Airtricity First Division: Cabinteely FC 2 Wexford FC 0
It's almost one year to the day since Wexford F.C. last won a game on the road, and the return trip to the scene of that success didn't yield any rewards on Friday.
The SSE Airtricity First Division resumed after the mid-season break with a journey up the M11 to face Cabinteely F.C. in Stradbrook, and the home side secured a deserved 2-0 victory thanks to goals at the start and finish of the second-half.
That last away win came on July 6 last year at the same venue, when second-half goals from the since-departed Mark Slater and Dean Kelly secured a favourable 2-1 result.
Only five of the 18-man squad that evening were involved on Friday - Corey Chambers, Conor Sutton, Danny Doyle, Ryan Nolan and Emmet Nugent - reflecting the revolving doors scenario which is part and parcel of life at a struggling second tier club.
This was the twelfth away tie since that 2018 victory, and the record since of ten losses and just two draws sums up one of the chief reasons why Wexford are languishing in last place.
The other issue is the glaringly obvious lack of goals, with just 15 registered in 18 league outings thus far this season.
Friday's game was the seventh where a blank was drawn, and in truth there was precious little created on a trouble-free evening for Cabo captain Stephen McGuinness and his back three, marshalled by the aerial prowess of Conor Keeley in the centre.
The game marked the return of two recent signings with previous experience in the club colours, as left-back Andrew O'Connor and right winger Ricky Fox had featured in 16 and 15 league matches respectively during the inaugural 2017 season.
Team captain Chris Kenny was absent owing to injury, while Thomas Croke was sidelined after accumulating five yellow cards, but Seán Callan and Ryan Nolan were available for selection once again.
However, centre-half Callan is now set for another unwanted lay-off as, on his return game from suspension, he was shown a straight red card by referee Adriano Reale in the 69th minute for a wild, reckless lunge at busy Cabinteely winger Keith Dalton.
Wexford were trailing 1-0 at that stage, with Callan also responsible for the foul on the home team's top scorer, Rob Manley, that led to that goal in the 47th minute.
His strike partner, Luke Clucas, took on the free-kick which was inside the 'D' in a central position, and he directed it low and to the right of Corey Chambers via the netminder's fingertips.
While Cabinteely couldn't afford to relax with just that one-goal cushion, they exerted most of the pressure and were clearly the superior side.
And once Wexford were reduced to ten men, there was a growing concern that tired legs and the appearance of gaps would lead to a game-clincher from the leaders.
It arrived in fairytale circumstances, as their new Japanese signing, Yuta Sasaki, was introduced on the left wing in the 87th minute and, in a stereotypical dream debut, he scored with his first involvement.
Wexford were caught for numbers down their own left flank as a Ferrycarrig Park old boy, Shane Barnes, got on the ball within seconds of his late introduction as the third Cabinteely substitute.
He found Keith Dalton who delivered an inch-perfect crossfield pass to Sasaki, with the newcomer still having a lot of work to do.
However, his sublime first touch made all the difference, as he deftly killed the ball which gave him ample time to size up the oncoming Corey Chambers and tuck a clean strike out of his reach into the right corner of the net.
It was the ideal way to herald one's arrival to a new club, a goal after just three minutes, and the final scoreline of 2-0 - a repeat of the outcome in Ferrycarrig Park on April 19 - was a true reflection of the general trend of the action.
Cabo threatened from the off, with Chambers fouled inside two minutes as a right-wing cross to the far post by Keith Dalton posed him some problems.
John Peare had a venomous shot from outside the box blocked and cleared, before the home side wasted the first of their three unanswered corner-kicks prior to the interval.
Wexford's most productive spell was in the early stages, with Paddy Cahill playing a neat through ball down the right for Danny Furlong in the seventh minute.
The striker was too close to the byline to get a shot away, and when he squared the ball it was controlled and cleared by Jack Tuite.
A delay for an injury to Jack Doherty was followed by a comfortable Chambers save from a Luke Clucas shot after a Zak O'Neill cross.
Andrew O'Connor, who understandably struggled with the pace of the game on his return to this level, headed the second Cabo corner to safety in the 17th minute, while Doherty could only direct a free-kick following a foul on Furlong into the arms of Stephen McGuinness.
Paddy Cahill needed some time to recover after receiving a blow of the ball in the face from close range, with Darragh O'Connor going on to clear the third corner his team faced as the defence coped well with plenty of pressure.
A superb long crossfield pass by Emmet Nugent promised much in the 36th minute, but Danny Furlong's heavy first touch meant that the ball was claimed by McGuinness without being forced into making a save.
Zak O'Neill fizzed a shot over the crossbar in the 36th minute, while there was no end product from Paul Fox after he beat two Wexford men down the left wing on the next Cabo attack.
A Doherty free-kick was headed clear at the near post before Seán Callan found himself in the wars, returning to the fray in the 41st minute with a bandage after sustaining a head injury.
There was a late scare for the visitors near the end of the three added minutes when an O'Neill header into the box just about eluded Jack Tuite, but they were playing catch-up from early in the second period.
Cabo always looked the more likely to take the points after that Luke Clucas goal, and the shared corner-kick count of 3-3 after the interval was somewhat misleading.
Clucas also received a blow to the head that forced him to change jersey number from 9 to 41, as well as donning a bandage similar to direct opponent Callan in a quite unusual sight.
Danny Doyle and Nika Arevadze were introduced on either flank in a double substitution, with Ricky Fox reverting to right-back while Paddy Cahill pushed up to central midfield.
Conor Sutton was booked for a high challenge on Paul Fox before Rob Manley's header on a high, looping right-wing cross from Alex Aspil was narrowly wide at the clubhouse end.
Wexford were getting increasingly ragged as the game moved towards its final quarter, with Andrew O'Connor booked for a jersey tug when it looked like his direct opponent was going to out-pace him down the wing.
Obstruction on Danny Furlong led to a yellow for Keith Dalton too, and Wexford's sole decent chance of the second-half quickly followed.
A Jack Doherty corner from the left went right across the face of goal and landed at the feet of Conor Sutton whose drive was blocked by Jack Hudson for another flag-kick, this time on the right.
Darragh O'Connor got on the end of that one, but there was no power on his header and it was safely gathered by Stephen McGuinness.
Seán Callan was dismissed less than a minute later as the early-season disciplinary problems which seemed to have been overcome unfortunately resurfaced.
A low, hard shot by Conor Keeley was well saved in the 70th minute by Chambers who got his body behind it and saw it coming from distance.
Paddy Cahill moved back to centre-half, and the pressure grew again as Rob Manley had a shot blocked before Zak O'Neill drove the rebound over the crossbar.
Another low shot, this time by Alex Aspil, was saved by Chambers who was then fouled by Manley as they scrambled for the rebound.
With the game still at 1-0, there was always the slight lingering hope that Wexford might snatch something on a rare breakaway, but step forward Yuta Sasaki to put paid to that idea and return Cabo to winning ways after three draws on the trot.
Next up for Wexford is a longer trip to Lissywollen to meet Athlone Town on Friday (7.45 p.m.).
The midlanders drew with Galway last Friday to increase the gap between ninth and tenth spots to four points, and Wexford won't need reminding that their last visit to the venue - on the opening night of the season on February 22 - ended in a 4-2 defeat.
Wexford F.C.: Corey Chambers; Paddy Cahill, Seán Callan, Darragh O'Connor, Andrew O'Connor; Ricky Fox, John Peare, Conor Sutton, Emmet Nugent; Jack Doherty (capt.), Danny Furlong. Subs. - Danny Doyle for Nugent (58), Nika Arevadze for Peare (58), Ryan Nolan for Fox (86), also Jason McGuire, Seán Roche, Andrew Farrell, Lee Costello.
Cabinteely F.C.: Stephen McGuinness (capt.); Jack Tuite, Conor Keeley, Jack Hudson; Eoin Massey; Keith Dalton, Alex Aspil, Zak O'Neill, Paul Fox; Rob Manley, Luke Clucas. Subs. - Kieran Marty Waters for Clucas (74), Yuta Sasaki for O'Neill (87), Shane Barnes for Manley (89), also Benjamin Clark, Seán Fitzpatrick, Kieran Butler, James Woods.
Referee: Adriano Reale (Kildare).