Youths hold their nerve to see off Mervue Utd
AFTER WHAT was a dramatic game, it eventually took a penalty shoot-out to separate these two evenly-matched sides, with Wexford Youths holding their nerve to emerge victorious from this exciting F.A.I. Youth Cup quarter-final clash with Mervue United at Ferrycarrig Park on Saturday afternoon last.
In tactical terms very little stood between the respective sides, and such was the quality of both back fours that chances were always going to be at a premium. However, this did not take from the flowing football, as both sides moved the ball with pace and confidence. Both sides had quite settled formations and this could be evident from the opening exchanges as they set about taking the initiative.
Wexfod Youths decided to apply the early pressure with Dale Flynn and Joseph B. Wallace being particularly prominent in midfield. But even at this early stage it became evident that the visiting back four would make life difficult for the home side with both Dylan Thornton and Sergio Nklaeata outstanding at the back as they cut off all paths to goal with some fine positional play and timely interceptions.
If Conor Mccarney had shown more awareness in front of goal, the home side could have taken a 12th-minute lead, but having got on the end of a fine Dale Flynn through ball, he delayed his shot too long, allowing centre-back Thornton time to recover and get in a timely tackle.
Mervue, who had been finding it difficult to bring any momentum to their game throuigh the opening 15 minutes, began to apply pressure with Dylan Murphy forcing a fine 20th-minute save out of home 'keeper Brendan O'callaghan.
Wexford Youths couldn't wait to return to the attack, and after 32 minutes they took a deserved lead when Chris Fenner powered home a superb 25-metre free kick high into the top right-hand corner of the net, leaving his side with a 1-0 lead. The pressure from the home side became unrelenting right up to the break but, despite a couple of close-range efforts from Fenner and Danny Fitzpatrick, the score remained 10 to the interval.
Mervue United did enjoy more possession through the opening 15 minutres of the secondhalf but they were unable to break down the home side's back four for whom Rajivkumar and Ben Duffy were outstanding as a central defensive pairing, limiting the visitors to shots from outside the area, with Dylan Murphy and Aaron Mcdonagh testing 'keeper O'callaghan who proved capable of dealing with the shot, catching cleanly on both occasions.
It was a fine volley from Mccarney that came close to increasing the home side's lead on 64 minutes as his shot brought the best of of the visitors' 'keeper Conor O'malley, while O'malley also had to be at his best three minutes later to keep out an Eoghan Walsh right-footed effort.
As the half progressed it looked as if Fenner's first-half goal would be sufficient to send the home side through to the semi-final. Mervue United were applying late pressure as they sought out an equaliser, and with the game one minute deep into additional time, they were awarded a free-kick after a foul on Mark Givens some 30 metres from goal almost dead centre. It was Luke Tully who superbly guided the ball over the wall into O'callaghan's top right-hand corner, bringing the game to extra-time.
Chances through both periods of extra-time were very limited with neither side managing to create a clearcut opening, leaving the game to be decided through the dreaded penalty shootout.
The Wexford Youths boys kept their nerve to emerge through to the semi-final draw on a 4-2 penalty shoot-out scoreline.