Soccer SSE Airtricity First Division Series 7: Wexford FC 1 Cobh Ramblers 1
A first competitive goal for Enniscorthy youngster Aaron Dobbs was the stand-out moment in Ferrycarrig Park on Friday as Wexford F.C. came from behind to end a four-game losing streak by sharing the spoils with Cobh Ramblers in this SSE Airtricity First Division clash.
Both sides registered inside the opening eight minutes, with the home crew falling in arrears before availing of a gift to equalise in double-quick time.
The teams had failed to produce a goal in 120 minutes of football when they met at the same venue in the EA Sports Cup last month.
However, the net shook at either end in a lively start on this occasion, with Ramblers first to strike in the sixth minute.
Centre-forward Andrew Wall advanced towards goal and was held up by the combined efforts of Seán Kelly and Chris Kenny, but the ball broke kindly just inside the penalty area to creative midfielder Anthony McAlavey who hit it first time into the corner of the net past an unsighted Kealan Gaffney.
It was an immediate test of character for the hosts given their struggles of late, but they produced an instant response.
Thomas Croke tried to play Aaron Dobbs in, and there was initial frustration as Cobh were granted a goal kick from the centre-forward's 50-50 challenge with a defender when he felt he deserved a corner.
It worked out perfectly all the same, because netminder Paul Hunt made a mess of his re-start, sending it to Dean Kelly who picked out Dobbs with a swift pass.
It was a rare sight for the youngster since joining Wexford on loan from Shamrock Rovers last season, to be one-on-one with a 'keeper and with a split second to pick his spot.
And he didn't hesitate, calmly directing the ball into the top right corner for only the second home goal scored by the club thus far in 2018.
Such a lively start left the promise of more to come, but it didn't work out that way although the best chance for a winner also fell to Dobbs in the 69th minute.
Mark Slater did very well to rob Ian Mylod on the right flank, and his cross towards the near post was hit first-time by Dobbs who forced Paul Hunt into an excellent save.
Later on Dobbs and Slater combined to give Dean George an opportunity a mere 30 seconds after his introduction, but he was under pressure from a defender and didn't get any power behind the ball as the netminder safely gathered.
Three of the more creative players in the squad - Dobbs, Slater and Dean Kelly - replaced Danny Doyle, Liam McCartan and Mikey Byrne from the starting eleven versus Shelbourne, although there was no penetration in the final third for the rest of the first-half after that well-taken equaliser.
Indeed, Cobh created all of the opportunities, even though none of them were clearcut and their shooting from distance left a lot to be desired.
Dave Hurley and Jaze Kabia blazed efforts well off target before the former's through ball tried to pick out the latter, but Kealan Gaffney had read the threat and darted off his line to claim possession.
Andrew Wall only succeeded in heading the ball away from goal after a Charlie Fleming cross, while midfielder Darren Murphy drove another long-ranger left and wide.
An injury to John Morgan forced him off in the 27th minute, with Seán Hurley slotting in as a straight swap at left-back.
The main threat in the Ramblers line-up was supplied by ex-Waterford man Anthony McAlavey, but his attempt at doubling his tally didn't succeed when he fired over the bar from long range.
The sole corner of the half didn't arrive until the 44th minute when a Jaze Kabia cross from the left squirmed under the foot of Owen Wall and into the path of right-back Charlie Fleming whose shot struck Seán Hurley on the back.
Kealan Gaffney was fouled from the delivery in the course of another competent overall display from the new goalkeeper whose steadiness has been one of the brighter aspects of the season so far.
Seán Kelly made a good block on an Anthony McAlavey shot just over three minutes into the new half at the expense of a fruitless corner, while Gaffney saved with ease from a long-range Dave Hurley shot.
Dean Kelly forced the first of Wexford's three flag kicks but then saw his delivery cleared, while Ross Kenny was booked before a dangerous Charlie Fleming cross was well defended in the form of a solid Seán Kelly header.
Dave Hurley shot wide in the 67th minute, but a brief spell of Wexford dominance followed.
Aaron Dobbs did well to win the ball off Irish under-age international James McSweeney, only to see his low cross cut out by a defender.
Just over a minute later he really tested Paul Hunt with that volley from Mark Slater's cross, and the subsequent corner posed some problems for Ramblers.
While Seán Hurley's kick from the right was too long, it was kept alive by Chris Kenny who set up Owen Wall for a cross. Dean Kelly managed to knock it into the danger zone from the far post, but there was nobody on hand to get a vital touch.
Still, it was more promising from Wexford, although Cobh did threaten once again in a six-minute period.
Dave Hurley flicked a Pierce Phillips cross wide at the near post, Anthony McAlavey sent a dipping shot over the bar, Hurley forced Kealan Gaffney into a good save, and finally a stretching Phillips couldn't get on the end of a McAlavey delivery.
Wexford fashioned another couple of chances, with Dean George denied by the goalkeeper from his first touch before a Dean Kelly corner from the left was headed over by Ross Kenny.
James McSweeney was booked but Kelly's free-kick was cleared, while Kenny had to get his timing spot on when he slide tackled McAlavey close to the byline and inside the area.
Cobh's fourth and final corner was cleared, and they had one last chance to snatch the win when McAlavey was fouled in a central area more than 30 metres out with the three added minutes almost at an end.
Substitute Cian Leonard stepped up to try his luck, but Gaffney wasn't troubled as the ball whizzed over the bar at the town end.
The players and management will no doubt be happy to collect a first point since their opening night win on the road to Cabinteely, as the four defeats in between threatened to sap a lot of confidence from the group.
They will be travelling once again this coming Friday, and it's a spicy one as the opposition will be provided by Galway United in Eamonn Deacy Park at 7.45 p.m.
One of Wexford's favourite sons, all-time Youths leading goalscorer Danny Furlong, is now plying his trade up front for the westerners, having linked up again with ex-Ferrycarrig Park boss Shane Keegan after a spell in New Zealand.
Furlong is currently the second-highest scorer in the First Division, with six goals behind David O'Sullivan of Shelbourne on nine, and he will provide a searching test for the visiting defence if he takes his place in the starting eleven.
Wexford's next home game is on April 20 against basement dwellers Athlone Town who conceded seven goals to Shels on Friday as their shocking season continued.
Two games postponed on numerous occasions have also been re-fixed. The Leinster Senior Cup opener at home to Cabinteely is on Tuesday, April 17, at 8 p.m., while there will be a 5 p.m. Bank Holiday Monday kick-off for the visit of U.C.D. for the second round league re-fixture on May 7.
It will be the sides' second meeting in ten days, as Wexford are due to visit Belfield to meet the students on April 27.
Wexford F.C.: Kealan Gaffney; A.J. Lehane, Seán Kelly, Ross Kenny (capt.), John Morgan; Mark Slater, Dean Kelly, Chris Kenny, Thomas Croke, Owen Wall; Aaron Dobbs. Subs. - Seán Hurley for Morgan, inj. (27), Dean George for Wall, inj. (85), also Colum Feeney, Liam McCartan, Shane Barnes, Danny Doyle, Mikey Byrne.
Cobh Ramblers: Paul Hunt (capt.); Charlie Fleming, Ben O'Riordan, James McSweeney, Ian Mylod; Dave Hurley, Darren Murphy, Pierce Phillips, Anthony McAlavey, Jaze Kabia; Andrew Wall. Subs. - Cian Leonard for Wall (63), Stephen Christopher for Kabia (73), Denzil Fernandez for Murphy (90), also Kevin Taylor, Adam Mylod, Michal Sadys, Gordon Walker.
Referee: Eoghan O'Shea (Tipperary).