Title bid in tatters
Soccer, So Hotels Women's National League: Wexford Youths 0 Peamount United 1
Wexford Youths' chances of claiming a fifth SÓ Hotels Women's National League title in six seasons are as good as over after they slumped to a second loss of the campaign to leaders Peamount United in Ferrycarrig Park on Saturday.
The hosts were woeful in the first-half and were lucky to even still be in the contest at the interval.
They improved after the break without creating too many chances on their way to another loss against the runaway leaders.
While Wexford have continued to pick up results against the others, they are simply not functioning well enough as a team to consistently mix it with an improving Peamount side, and it was evident in this game.
Peamount have a lot going for them and one of the biggest things is consistency of selection. This Dublin team know each other so well, it's the same players playing week after week, and their cohesion is evident on the field.
Wexford are the complete opposite, as anyone could be out there on any given weekend.
That might be alright to bluff it against the lesser lights, but you get caught out quickly when you struggle to string two passes together against a strong footballing side.
For a change, Tom Elmes had a pretty full squad to pick from but his starting line-up let him down. On the other hand, one might argue that the Wexford boss had stronger options on the bench and likely paid a heavy price for his selection decisions.
Not one of the five midfielders won their personal battle in the first 45 minutes, and that right there is a recipe for disaster.
Wexford got kicked off the park, as Peamount went through and around them. They did whatever they wanted, and the hosts looked demoralised even before they conceded.
If ever there was a time to admit the mistakes and make first-half changes, this was it. The goal was undoubtedly coming and the only surprise was that a second, third or even fourth didn't follow.
Positional switches are all well and good, but when you have multiple players continually losing possession there really is no use in moving them around the field.
The only switch that did work was moving Aisling Frawley inside, as it gave Peamount a little more pace to deal with in the middle and it unsettled them.
It was the basis for what Wexford were able to do in the second-half, which was play the game on an even footing and at least half perform like they were a cohesive unit. They didn't look like that before.
In fact, everything was off in the first-half, when simple control of the ball proved difficult. Wexford looked like an astro team who were too used to, and expecting, big even bounces, but all they got was the dead thud of turf.
Peamount created their first chance as early as the fifth minute when Megan Smyth-Lynch fed Amber Barrett into the clear, but the striker flashed her volley all the way across goal and out for a throw.
Karen Duggan was particularly strong in the middle third and she won a free-kick in the 16th minute that Claire Walsh flashed just outside the right post, with Sophie Lenehan waving it off unflustered.
Midway through the half, Barrett picked up possession on the left wing, cut in and shot, but it always looked to have too much air and it landed on the roof of the net.
A minute later Niamh Farrelly slipped Eleanor Ryan-Doyle into the clear and, stretching, she deflected the ball onto the foot of the post.
Barrett shot from distance in the 27th minute but Lenehan got down well to push it behind for a corner.
Peamount took the lead seven minutes later when Ryan-Doyle controlled and smashed a volley at goal. Lenehan got her finger tips to it but only enough to knock it onto the underside of the crossbar and into the net.
Farrelly was next to test Lenehan but the Wexford 'keeper held on. The Peamount midfielder slipped Áine O'Gorman into the clear in the 39th minute, but Lauren Dwyer came from nowhere to block what looked a certain goal.
When Ryan-Doyle was fouled two minutes later, Smyth-Lynch cracked the outside of the post with Lenehan beaten.
Two minutes before the interval Farrelly crossed and Ryan-Doyle sent a looping header up that the Youths stopper held.
Then, right on half-time, Wexford won a free-kick for handball, 25 yards from goal. Summing up the half perfectly, Jarrett missed the target with her shot and the hosts slumped off to the dressing-room in disarray.
The second -half started brighter, but four corners in as many minutes came to nothing. Lauren Kelly's delivery was no more than mediocre, hanging up and easy to defend.
At the other end Barrett had two shots in quick succession blocked by the Wexford defence.
Jarrett got to the byline in the 55th minute and pulled back to Kelly, but her left-footed shanked shot summed up her evening. Farrelly fired over from distance at the other end before the game went into a little lull.
Lenehan easily held a Farrelly volley from the edge of the area in the 70th minute. Frawley weakly headed a Parrock cross from the right wing wide before sending a shot straight at Naoise McAloon five minutes later.
When Frawley was fouled five minutes from time, Jarrrett's free-kick was straight at McAloon and she held comfortably. Then, as the game hit the 90-minute mark, Wexford missed the golden chance they had been waiting for.
It was of Peamount's own doing, as substitute Jade Reddy sliced a clearance, and it spun up off the ground and onto her own crossbar.
In the scrambled aftermath, Edel Kennedy smashed the ball off the crossbar from a few yards out and the visitors survived to move eight points clear and put one hand on the league trophy
Realistically, there is very little chance Wexford will retain their title now, so the focus must shift to trying to gain some silverware in the cups and giving it a good shot in what could be the last UEFA Champions League campaign for many of these players.
Youths host Limerick on Saturday in their final game before the mid-season break (Ferrycarrig Park, 6.30 p.m.). Before that, the draw for the qualifying rounds of the Champions League takes place on Friday in Nyon, Switzerland.
Wexford were confirmed at the top of the third pot of seeds, narrowly missing out on a vital second seed.
Youths will be hosted by one of six teams: Gintra (Lithuania), FC Twente (Netherlands), SFK 2000 Sarajevo (Bosnia), Kharkiv (Ukraine), Pomurje Beltinci (Slovenia), or Rigas Futbola skola (Latvia).
Wexford Youths: Sophie Lenehan; Nicola Sinnott, Lauren Dwyer, Orlaith Conlon, Becky Cassin; Kylie Murphy (capt.); Aisling Frawley, Lauren Kelly, Edel Kennedy, Blessing Kingsley; Rianna Jarrett. Subs. - Ciara Rossiter for Cassin (57), Katrina Parrock for Kelly (64), Vanessa Ogbonna for Kingsley (77), also Ciamh Dolland, McKenna Davidson, Doireann Fahey, Aoife Slattery.
Peamount United: Naoise McAloon; Lauryn O'Callaghan, Louise Corrigan, Claire Walsh, Dearbhaile Beirne; Karen Duggan, Niamh Farrelly; Áine O'Gorman (capt.), Eleanor Ryan-Doyle, Megan Smyth-Lynch; Amber Barrett. Subs. - Jade Reddy for Smyth-Lynch (87), Chloe Maloney for Barrett (90+5), also Emma Ring, Clare Conlon, Lucy McCarton, Niamh Barnes.
Referee: Brian Fenlon (Wexford).
New Ross Standard