Doyle's header earns a point
SSE Airtricity First Division Series 27: Wexford FC 1 Shelbourne 1
The persistence of young Danny Doyle was finally rewarded with his first goal of the season in Ferrycarrig Park on Friday as Wexford F.C. came from behind to earn a share of the spoils with Shelbourne in their last SSE Airtricity First Division home outing of an underwhelming season.
The Carlow teenager has earned the approval of the crowd with his appetite for hard work whether in a starting role or coming off the bench, even when the rewards weren't forthcoming.
And the decision to introduce him as the third and final substitute for front man Adam O'Rourke certainly paid off as he read the situation perfectly to grab the equaliser just two minutes later.
Dean Kelly's strong shot tested Shelbourne goalkeeper Dean Delany who got his hands to the drive and turned it over the bar for a corner on the left.
Kelly's delivery to the far post was knocked back across the box by centre-half Owen McCormack, and Doyle was on hand to guide it to the net with a deft header from close range.
That's how the scoreline remained until the final whistle, meaning that the small cohort of loyal supporters at least had something positive to take from the end of a tough campaign where Wexford's seventh place finish from the eight competing teams is now guaranteed.
They now lie three points above bottom side Athlone ahead of their last game away to Longford Town on October 7. And even if Wexford were to lose and the midlanders grabbed an unlikely win, the south-east side's scoring difference is far superior.
They were undone in the 45th minute of Friday's encounter when Dayle Rooney played the ball down the right channel for overlapping full-back James Brown who scored a peach of a goal, lofting it over advancing netminder Colum Feeney and admiring his handiwork as it bounced into a gaping net.
It was a big night for Feeney, the number one for the club's Under-17 team, who had manned the bench for the first time one week earlier and got his big chance between the posts due to the unavailability of Danny Bolger.
That was one of three changes from the comprehensive loss to champions Waterford, with Seán Hurley and Mark Slater also returning at the expense of Dean George and Aaron Dobbs respectively.
The first-half was a largely uneventful affair, with precious little created in the way of chances from either side.
Shelbourne were the more purposeful side going forward and topped the corner count 7-0, but none of those set-pieces led to either a shot or header directed on target as the Wexford defence held firm.
Adam O'Rourke, deployed as the lone striker for the first time, headed the first one clear in the third minute, and three more followed without netminder Feeney being tested before Shelbourne almost created a good opening.
Twelve minutes had elapsed when Dayle Rooney beat Seán Hurley down the flank and directed the ball to centre-forward Jamie Doyle who lost his footing at the crucial juncture to Wexford's relief.
David O'Leary fired a shot over the bar before a fifth corner was eventually cleared after Dylan Kavanagh had a shot blocked in the box.
The only time Wexford managed to test experienced netminder Delany before the break was in the 27th minute when Mark Slater tried his luck with a shot from distance, but the number one dived low to his left to make a comfortable save.
It looked like the teams would remain scoreless until James Browne's piece of individual skill and opportunism broke the deadlock shortly before the interval, and it made Wexford's task of securing a third league win of the season against the Tolka Park crew all the harder.
They forced their first corner within seconds of the re-start but Mark Slater's flag kick was cleared, while a similar effort from Dayle Rooney at the other end was dealt with before James O'Brien hooked a speculative attempt over the bar.
Slater embarked on a strong run in the 52nd minute but lost control as he moved into the box, while Craig McCabe did enough to ensure that James O'Brien didn't get a solid connection on a dangerous cross from the right at the far post.
Ross Kenny then stretched to get a vital touch on another delivery before Alan Byrne blazed over.
Dean Kelly and Shane Dunne were introduced in a double substitution on the 61-minute mark, with Conor Sutton collecting a yellow card in the next incident of note.
Shelbourne's best chance to double their lead arrived in the 71st minute when an Adam Evans cross was met by a diving header from recently-introduced substitute James English, but his effort went low and narrowly wide.
Wexford attacked immediately and a Slater knock-on found Adam Hanlon in a bit of space in the left channel, but he directed his shot across goal and wide.
Aidan Collins showed all his experience to deny an opening for Slater from a Seán Hurley delivery, but Danny Doyle's introduction in the 73rd minute changed the course of the game.
It was a dream arrival as his first significant involvement saw him rattle the net at the clubhouse end, although there was immense relief when only the woodwork prevented the Dubliners from regaining the lead.
Another McCabe challenge had been sufficient to put Adam Evans off when he tried to get on the end of a cross, but Shelbourne were dogged by misfortune in the 78th minute.
Dayle Rooney turned neatly and got a fine shot away, only to see it rebound into play off the underside of the bar.
And the danger wasn't averted as just under 60 seconds later Colum Feeney was called upon to show his worth, saving superbly in a one-on-one situation to deny James English after Derek Prendergast played an accurate ball over the top.
James O'Brien headed wide from a Dylan Kavanagh cross as the vocal Shels support continued to get behind their team, while a couple of balls into the box from winger Dayle Rooney were cleared as the pressure continued.
Another corner was conceded after McCabe left Feeney short with a back pass, but Rooney's second ball into the danger area was headed over by David O'Leary.
Ross Kenny blocked a Chris Lyons shot with five minutes left, and the third and last Wexford corner of the half taken by Dean Kelly was then cleared by the visitors.
Alan Byrne came close to grabbing a late winner for Shelbourne in the 90th minute when he controlled a Rooney cross and saw his shot deflected for a corner on the right which was wasted with a poor delivery.
A foul on Dean Kelly gave the Carlow lad one last chance deep into the three added minutes, but his free-kick was easily saved by Dean Delany as the sides had to be content with a share of the spoils.
Wexford F.C.: Colum Feeney; Craig McCabe (capt.), Owen McCormack, Ross Kenny, Seán Hurley; Conor Sutton; Adam Hanlon, Mikey Byrne, Thomas Croke, Mark Slater; Adam O'Rourke. Subs. - Dean Kelly for Byrne (61), Shane Dunne for Croke (61), Danny Doyle for O'Rourke (73), also Aaron O'Connor, Dean George, A.J. Lehane, Adam Dempsey.
Shelbourne: Dean Delany (capt.); James Brown, Derek Prendergast, Aidan Collins, Dylan Kavanagh; Dayle Rooney, David O'Leary, Alan Byrne, James O'Brien, Adam Evans; Jamie Doyle. Subs. - James English for Doyle (70), Chris Lyons for O'Brien (80), also Niall Lanigan, Aaron Molloy, Aaron Ashe, Dylan Grimes, Jamie Quinn.
Referee: Alan Carey (Dublin).
New Ross Standard