Cobh Ramblers 1 Wexford F.C.0
It was another one of those days for Wexford F.C. They matched up well with their opponents in St. Colman's Park on Friday, did some nice things over the course of 90 minutes, but couldn't keep a clean sheet and failed to score, yet again.
Both sides set up the same way: back four with two holders in midfield, three spread in front and a lone striker. Matching formations and ideas should favour the superior group of players and the league table before kick-off suggested that Cobh were that team.
However, things tend to be more black and white on paper. In reality, Wexford matched their opponents for most of this game. They didn't create a string of clearcut chances but neither did their second-placed opponents.
The ace in Ramblers manager Stephen Henderson's pocket was the fact that Wexford can't score goals. It's now just six in 15 league games, and worse than that, it's just three in the last eleven.
Wexford boss Damian Locke has taken some flack for his team's inability to net but what do people want, to lose 4-1 and 5-2 rather than 1-0? The current ability level of his squad is low, there are young players that will improve for the experience, but they are simply not up to this standard right now.
There was a big moment in this game that pretty much summed up Wexford's plight and it came in the 77th minute. Cian Coleman made a poor error, gifting the ball back to Danny Doyle, 25 yards from goal.
He had an opening but not the speed or power to burst through. He drifted out, past the covering defender and there was his opening, but under pressure from behind he took a swing at the ball and air-kicked.
There were keen shouts for a penalty and it certainly looked like the striker was impeded. However, a Paul Murphy or a Danny Furlong would have been away from the defence, one-on-one with the 'keeper and shooting before a Cobh man was anywhere near them.
The hosts scored the winner two minutes later. In a game were little things make a big difference, big things will catch up with you. Wexford don't have the goalscorer that can prosper so well in the 4-2-3-1 system.
It's not all the lone attacker's fault. Whoever that man is, he needs more quality from the five behind him. A lot of the time the quality of ball is just not good enough, just as often the decision-making is poor but this is all stuff Wexford are, no doubt, working on.
The important thing for the Ferrycarrig Park side is that they keep going hard, and they did in this game. The minimum requirement is a good attitude and hard work and for that Wexford cannot be faulted.
After a couple of minutes of Cobh pressure, the visitors started to settle. No team enjoys defending long throws although the hosts did survive Craig McCabe's early missiles into the penalty area.
In the eleventh minute Danny Doyle and Liam Donnelly linked up well on the right wing. The flag of Adam Michal Tszampel shot up but it was a very close call when the ball was played as Doyle cut in towards goal.
Cobh worked a nice move between Matthew Whelan and Ian Mylod on the left in the 15th minute. The former got the ball into the box but first Jason Abbott, and then Ross Mann, saw shots blocked by Wexford.
When the hosts made a meal of Mark Slater's ball into the edge of area in the 19th minute, Donnelly pounced but the Ramblers defence blocked his goalbound shot. Then, a back-pedaling Graham Doyle looked to have got a touch on Ben O'Riordan's ball from the right that drifted inches wide of the back post, but a goal kick was given.
Eleven minutes before the break Craig Donnellan sent a lovely dinked cross from the left to the back post but neither Whelan nor Mann could get a telling touch. By now, after an even first half hour, Cobh were on top and pressed until the break.
Whelan almost swivelled on a James McSweeney long throw but he was blocked out. Abbott whizzed a powerful shot over the crossbar before Whelan missed the corner flag with a 30-yard strike and it went out for a Wexford throw.
Mylod drilled a shot from 25 yards out narrowly wide of the near post from the left of the goal just before the interval. When Patrick O'Connor's whistle went for half-time it was certainly a welcome break for Wexford.
After going the entire first period without a clearcut chance, Cobh took just three second-half minutes to create one. Whelan and Abbott combined on the right to cross for Coleman, eight yards from goal, but his free header squealed wide of the far post.
A feature of the second-half were the dribbles of Mark Slater. Several times he beat the first man and committed others but alternately, the pass, or the support, were not there when he needed it and several glimmers of openings disappeared quickly.
In the 57th minute Charlie Fleming's 45-yard screamer was finger-tipped over by Graham Doyle. Coleman again missed the target with the header from the resulting corner. When Slater was pushed in the back from Doyle's long kick-out, Andy O'Connor made a mess of the free-kick.
On one of the rare times Wexford were stretched at the back, when Abbott spread wide to Mylod on the left in the 64th minute, the winger horrifically over-hit his cross with Whelan waiting unmarked at the back post.
Another Slater dribble from right to centre did get others into the game in the 70th minute. He picked out O'Connor on the left. The defender fed it back to Seán Hurley and the Wexford winger thundered a shot a couple of yards over the bar.
With 13 minutes remaining Doyle had that chance when the defence opened up for him after a Coleman error. He couldn't take it, and two minutes later Graham Doyle spilled Abbott's shot from outside the penalty area and Mylod had the easiest of tap-ins at the back post.
As Wexford upped the tempo, right-back Ricky Fox was the target of a diatribe from a Cobh 'supporter'. While the Enniscorthy man is well able to handle himself, it's not really the point; harbouring these knuckle draggers should result in sanctions for the host club.
Wexford almost grabbed an equaliser when Slater's cross from the right found Hurley whose shot was blocked, and Danny Doyle's resulting header sailed harmlessly over the crossbar. In the 89th minute assistant Tszampel got involved again in the decision to send off Andy O'Connor for a late tackle.
It wasn't the only late tackle of the evening, and it probably wasn't even the worst, but inconsistency is a blight that most Irish officials struggle to overcome.
Wexford's last chance came when Slater was fouled in midfield. Fox launched it into the box but a little too far for anyone to prosper.
Damian Locke's side have this week off, and they return to action on Friday, June 16, with a home game against fellow strugglers Athlone Town. The midlanders were beaten 6-1 by Waterford last week.
Wexford F.C.: Graham Doyle (capt.); Ricky Fox, Craig McCabe, Owen McCormack, Andy O'Connor; Craig Wall, Conor Sutton; Liam Donnelly, Mark Slater, Seán Hurley; Danny Doyle. Subs. - Craig Hayes for Sutton (82), Dean George for Donnelly (87), also Vincent Quinlan, Corey Chambers.
Cobh Ramblers: Paul Hunt (capt.); Charlie Fleming, James McSweeney, Ben O'Riordan, Kyle McNamara; Cian Coleman, Craig Donnellan; Ross Mann, Jason Abbott, Ian Mylod; Matthew Whelan. Subs. - Shane Lowth for Mann (46), Christopher McCarthy for McNamara (68), also Michael Sadys, Stephen Christopher, Darren Murphy, Anthony O'Donnell, Scott McCarthy.
Referee: Patrick O'Connor (Kilkenny).