Blues take the derby spoils
Wexford F.C.0 Waterford F.C.1
A Ferrycarrig Park old boy returned to inflict further pain on Wexford F.C. in Friday's south-east derby in the SSE Airtricity First Division, coming off the bench and playing a key role in Waterford's match-winning goal.
Conor 'Speedy' Whittle is familiar with every blade of grass on the well-manicured pitch, and he slotted in seamlessly after replacing injured striker Mark O'Sullivan at the break.
Whittle filled the left-back spot which freed Derek Daly for a more advanced position on that flank, with Shane O'Connor moving to partner David McDaid up front.
And it took less than five minutes for the former duo to combine and produce a decisive outcome.
Whittle continued his run after playing the ball to Daly, and it looked like he would receive a return pass in the box.
However, Daly had other ideas, planting his standing foot firmly in the ground before delivering a low left-footed drive which beat Corey Chambers at his near post.
It proved to be the winning goal on a night when fans of table-topping Waterford made the short journey via New Ross in force and swelled the attendance to a season-high 519.
In fairness to Wexford, they didn't accept their fate after that 50th-minute concession, and fought very hard thereafter in a bid to hit back.
Indeed, Waterford spent most of the last half-hour in defensive mode and were sufficiently concerned to bring Jack Lynch off the bench to the exclusion of Shane O'Connor, leaving David McDaid to plough a lone furrow up front.
Wexford had the ball in the net too in the 64th minute, after a Shane Dunne corner was partially cleared.
Young Danny Doyle, who is growing into his attacking role, slipped the ball into the box for centre-half Ross Kenny who hadn't retreated after the set-piece.
He opted against shooting, instead slotting the ball to his left where Mark Slater controlled it before firing home from a very tight angle near the byline. It was all in vain though, because the linesman's flag had been raised before the winger got his shot away as he deemed the ball had gone out of play.
The starting eleven showed four changes from the loss to U.C.D., with Craig McCabe returning from suspension and Ricky Fox, Thomas Croke and Lee Duffy also in the line-up at the expense of Conor Sutton, Andrew O'Connor, the injured Seán Hurley and Adam Hanlon.
Indeed, the bench looked very threadbare with several players unavailable, so much so that only three outfield players plus third choice netminder Adam Dempsey were listed on the teamsheet.
Wexford town's Robin Dempsey lined out at right-back for the visitors who were also minus a number of players who had shone in Waterford's victory when the sides met in the R.S.C. earlier in the campaign, most notably midfielder Tom Smith who has returned to Swindon Town after his loan spell, and experienced centre-half Kenny Browne.
It wasn't a wonderful spectacle in terms of the quality of the football on view, but that tends to be the case with derby clashes.
Eoin Porter and Lee Duffy had shots blocked in quick succession after three minutes following the first of several long throws from captain Craig McCabe, while Mark O'Sullivan hammered an early Waterford free-kick into the wall and injured Duffy in the process.
An eleventh-minute Duffy cross from the right went wide via Danny Doyle before a weak header from O'Sullivan at the other end didn't worry Corey Chambers.
The Wexford netminder advanced swiftly to cut out Anthony McAlavey's through ball intended for Kenny McEvoy, while another long McCabe throw nearly led to an own goal in the 19th minute.
It went off the head of Patrick McClean at Matt Connor's near post, but the goalkeeper and former Wexford Youths squad member was alert enough to direct it out of play for a corner.
Shane Dunne's first effort from the left led to another set-piece on the right, and this time his delivery was met by centre-half Owen McCormack whose downward header was cleared.
Mark Slater had a decent attempt in the 27th minute, shooting to the right and wide, before winning the third Wexford corner.
He accepted it short from Dunne and found Danny Doyle whose shot was blocked for corner number four, but that delivery, again via Dunne, was cleared.
Chambers had to be alert at the other end in the 31st minute, saving David McDaid's flick from a left-wing cross by Garry Comerford.
Danny Doyle did well to control a long ball from Craig McCabe on the next Wexford attack, only to fire high and wide at the near post.
A booking for Shane Dunne resulted in a free-kick that went off Mark O'Sullivan's head and drifted harmlessly wide before the striker directed another attempt into Chambers' arms.
Anthony McAlavey shot wildly over the bar for the visitors before David McDaid couldn't capitalise on a dangerous ball into the box from Shane O'Connor.
Waterford applied a lot of late pressure before the break, winning four corners in quick succession but failing to open their account.
Captain David Mulcahy headed over from the first, while Derek Daly underlined the threat he posed with a stinging left-footed shot which flew wide.
Sometimes fate can conspire against a struggling team, and this was the case here as Mark O'Sullivan's injury forced Waterford into a positional re-jig at the break.
Thomas Croke was booked for a challenge inside 30 seconds of the re-start, letting his eagerness get the better of him against his home town club.
And the game was 50 minutes old when Croke and company found themselves in an all-too familiar position this season, chasing the game after Whittle teed up Daly for that goal.
The duo looked to hammer home that new-found advantage quickly, with Whittle again releasing Daly whose low cross across goal didn't get a touch and thankfully resulted in a throw-in on the far side of the field for Wexford.
Two Waterford corners came to nothing before Wexford grew into the game, and they were more than a match for their promotion-seeking rivals in the last 30 minutes.
A Shane Dunne corner went wide off Thomas Croke before the home side did perhaps enjoy a let-off when referee Tom Dempsey stopped play to book Owen McCormack when a left-wing breakaway was very much on the cards.
Mark Slater's disallowed goal came after a foul on Shane Dunne whose free-kick was knocked out for a corner. And although that linesman's flag was a hammer blow, it didn't deter Wexford as David Mulcahy blocked a Lee Duffy cross before Danny Doyle made a jinking run into the box and fired his shot over the bar.
Waterford broke downfield in the 70th minute, with David McDaid, Shane O'Connor and Derek Daly linking up but McDaid couldn't make the most of Daly's return pass.
Liam Donnelly replaced the hard-running Danny Doyle up front, before the blues worked a clever set-piece in the 75th minute.
Derek Daly played a corner to the right low for David McDaid at the near post and, after receiving the return pass and making a better angle, his cross-cum-shot wasn't too far off the mark.
McDaid was booked for standing in the way of a free-kick before Liam Donnelly won a corner which was knocked out for a throw-in on the opposite side of the pitch.
Craig McCabe pegged it into the danger zone, only for Ross Kenny to head wide at the near post.
Wexford continued to threaten, through a combination of Dunne corners and McCabe throws, but Waterford held firm, and they were also extremely lucky on one occasion when an apparent handball by a defender in the box wasn't spotted by the officials.
A frustrated Mark Slater was booked in added time for a late challenge on Garry Comerford, and the final whistle sounded with Wexford having nothing to show for one of their better efforts of the season.
Perhaps it will be lucky 13 on Friday at 8 p.m. when Shelbourne make the trip to Ferrycarrig Park. The Dubliners won the sides' two previous meetings this season, first in the Leinster Senior Cup and then in the league in Tolka Park, but if Wexford can contain the threat posed by winger Adam Evans they will surely be hopeful of ending that ever-lengthening quest for an elusive three points.
Wexford F.C.: Corey Chambers; Owen McCormack, Ross Kenny, Craig McCabe (capt.); Ricky Fox, Eoin Porter, Thomas Croke, Shane Dunne, Mark Slater; Danny Doyle, Lee Duffy. Subs. - Liam Donnelly for Doyle (74), Andrew O'Connor for Croke (83), also Conor Sutton, Adam Dempsey.
Waterford F.C.: Matt Connor; Robin Dempsey, David Mulcahy (capt.), Patrick McClean, Derek Daly; Kenny McEvoy, Anthony McAlavey, Garry Comerford, Shane O'Connor; David McDaid, Mark O'Sullivan. Subs. - Conor Whittle for O'Sullivan (HT), Jack Lynch for O'Connor (72), also Dean Walsh, Owen Wall, John Martin, Shane Griffin, Matthew Sheehan.
Referee: Tom Dempsey.