Thursday 23 May 2019

Wexford move off the bottom

SSE Airtricity First Division Series 8: Limerick FC 1 Wexford FC 1

Alan Aherne in Limerick

The long late-night journey home from Limerick on Friday was undertaken with a pep in the step by the Wexford F.C. players after their first away point of the season saw them move off the foot of the SSE Airtricity First Division table.

The visitors leap-frogged Galway United at the basement, and it was no more than they deserved after denying the Munster side a fifth successive victory before a crowd of 585 at the impressive Markets Field venue.

Wexford stunned the home side's supporters when left winger Emmet Nugent latched on to an opening after a crossfield pass by Shane Tracy was fluffed by Seán McSweeney in the 51st minute.

The Kilkenny man still had a great deal to do as he gathered possession just inside the opposition's half, but he ran at Robbie Williams and beat him quite comfortably before his shot struck netminder Jack Brady. Thankfully, it rebounded favourably at his feet and he was able to steer the ball into an unguarded net.

Nugent's third goal of the season led to delight among the small visiting faithful, but it was shortlived as Limerick equalised less than three minutes later.

A cross from the right was knocked back into the path of midfielder Darren Murphy, and he drilled a low shot to the net to get the goal that ultimately ensured a share of the spoils.

Seán Callan returned from suspension to resume his familiar right-sided centre-half's role, with Owen McCormack moving from there to right-back at the expense of Thomas Croke.

That was the only change from the side which went down 2-1 at home to Longford seven days earlier, and the familiar-looking line-outs of late are certainly helping the players to settle into a pattern after that difficult start to the season.

Another huge plus was the introduction of club captain Chris Kenny in the 65th minute for his first taste of action in the campaign after a lengthy injury lay-off.

A stylish nutmeg by Emmet Nugent on Limerick captain Shaun Kelly was an early highlight, but Corey Chambers was the first netminder called into action as he dashed to his near post to get to a cross-shot by Karl O'Sullivan.

The same Limerick player blazed high and wide before Wexford came within inches of grabbing a goal on the break in the eighth minute.

Ryan Nolan found Paddy Cahill in the right channel, and his cross was just a shade too far away from the outstretched boot of Jack Doherty as it fizzed across the six-yard box.

Chambers had an easy save to make from a weak Darren Murphy shot, but he was tested to the full by a long-range effort from Robbie Williams in the 16th minute.

Shane Tracy sent a free-kick narrowly wide at the near post before Jason Hughes shot over, while captain Shaun Kelly couldn't keep the next attempt down either.

Danny Furlong fired a low shot across goal and wide in the 24th minute, with Colm Walsh-O'Loughlen doing the same at the other end before Wexford posed another major threat.

This time Jack Doherty passed to Furlong who returned the compliment, but the Tipperary attacker had to take on the shot on his left and fluffed his lines.

The sole corner of the first-half was won by Doherty but headed clear, while there was a let-off for Wexford when a cross by Walsh-O'Loughlen just missed the head of Karl O'Sullivan.

Darren Murphy shot over from distance, and Furlong will have been disappointed at his finish from a half-chance in the 38th minute.

Doherty found Cahill who lofted a good pass towards his centre-forward, who was immediately confronted by Jack Brady who had dashed off his line.

Defenders raced back to provide cover behind the netminder, and Furlong could only pull his shot high to the right and wide.

Seán McSweeney shot over before Chambers got down low to save a decent effort from Conor Ellis, and he had full-back Lee Costello to thank for his second goal-line clearance of the season in the 42nd minute.

It came after a McSweeney header, and the last action of the half saw Shaun Kelly pull a low shot across goal and wide for Limerick.

Furlong had a volley from a Costello cross blocked by a defender on the re-start, and those two goals followed at either end as the home crowd fell into a very brief silence which didn't last nearly as long as Wexford would have liked.

After that equaliser, it looked like the visitors were doing all they could to play for a draw, with a couple of innocuous injuries being milked for all they were worth.

A Furlong free-kick went off the wall for the first corner of the half but it was cleared, while Colm Walsh-O'Loughlen got too much distance into a cross after nutmegging Owen McCormack.

Wexford dealt with the first of two Limerick corners (the visitors ended with four) shortly after Chris Kenny's debut for the season, while Jason Hughes sent a weak shot wide before a truly shameful incident in the 76th minute.

Limerick centre-forward Conor Ellis threw himself to the ground in the box in search of a phantom penalty, and he deserved all the abuse he got from the Wexford defenders nearest the scene before referee Eoghan O'Shea showed him a yellow card.

Neither side could capitalise from a corner as the game entered the last ten minutes, before Shane Tracy shot high and over for Limerick.

The last Wexford corner in the 89th minute also proved fruitless, with Jack Doherty later doing well to get to the byline before putting too much weight on his cross.

There was one very anxious closing moment for the visitors, seconds before the final whistle, when time seemed to stand still as Shane Tracy got his head on the end of a Conor Ellis cross, but thankfully it ended up on the outside of the right-hand post.

The draw moves Wexford on to four points and, in a league full of up-and-down results for most teams, it's interesting to note that the sole victory annexed by basement side Galway was that 4-0 hammering of Brian O'Sullivan's charges in Ferrycarrig Park.

Results in Limerick and elsewhere left the next visitors to the venue this coming Friday at 7.45 p.m., Cabinteely, on top of the table for 24 hours before that mantle was taken over by Longford Town.

Wexford have quite a good record against the south Dubliners in the past two campaigns, but Cabo have some strong additions in their ranks this season and look like an emerging force.

Wexford F.C.: Corey Chambers; Owen McCormack (capt.), Seán Callan, Darragh O'Connor, Lee Costello; Danny Doyle, Paddy Cahill, Ryan Nolan, Emmet Nugent; Jack Doherty, Danny Furlong. Subs. - Chris Kenny for Nolan (65), Thomas Croke for Doyle (77), Nika Arevadze for Nugent (90+4), also Seán Kelly, Seán Roche, Andrew Farrell, Colum Feeney.

Limerick F.C.: Jack Brady; Shaun Kelly (capt.), Robbie Williams, Killian Brouder, Shane Tracy; Karl O'Sullivan, Darren Murphy, Jason Hughes, Colm Walsh-O'Loughlen; Seán McSweeney, Conor Ellis. Subs. - Kieran Hanlon for O'Sullivan (76), Ger Barry for Walsh-O'Loughlen (90+2), also Tommy Holland, Lee Devitt, Tomás O'Connor, Adam Foley, Aaron Fitzgerald.

Referee: Eoghan O'Shea (Tipperary).

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