Danny does it again
There is certainly something to be said for a quality striker as a Danny Furlong 'double strike' kept Wexford Youths on course for the title but they had to show their mettle to dispose of battling Cobh Ramblers in this exciting SSE Airtricity League Division 1 clash at Ferrycarrig Park on Saturday evening.
Wexford Youths 2 Cobh Ramblers 1
There was never any doubting Furlong's scoring touch but his third consecutive 'brace' of goals saw him bring his season's tally to 25 goals leaving him the top striker in the country. The striker is bang on form at the most crucial stage of the season as the night's results, with title chasing Finn Harps and UCD both figuring in draws leaving the Youths four points clear at the top, with one game in hand on the Donegal outfit.
But Cobh Ramblers have continued to show their improvement under Stephen Henderson. They took a first-half lead having played all the quality football through the opening half hour, but once Frlong with a clinical strike two minutes later brought the sides back level, they came under incessant pressure.
But one always felt given their quick counter-attacking football they were always capable of snatching an equaliser which kept the game on a knife edge right to the final whistle.
It was admirable to see Cobh show attacking football through the opening half hour and with Shane O'Connor lively up front they came ever so close to breaking down the home back four, and it was only alert keeper Graham Doyle, along with efforts going narrowly wide that prevented them from opening the scoring much earlier.
At the opposite end, the Youths began to follow up their slow start, now beginning to enjoy more possession in midfield through the hard work of Shane Dunne and Andy Mulligan, while the tall Aidan Keenan up front along with Furlong, were now beginning to impose themselves on the visitors back four.
Ten minutes into the game Bobby Donoghue pulled a low shot on goal but his weak effort was easily saved by Doyle, but five minutes later Furlong was to show his instinct in front of goal as he raced on to a Mulligan through ball but only the alert goalkeeping of David Browne denied him getting down quickly at his feet to avert the danger.
After 23 minutes Donoghue saw an effort hit the side netting via the outside right post while three minutes later he had a goal disallowed for offside, a close call.
Now growing in confidence they got the breakthrough in the 33rd minute following a well rehearsed free-kick.
The free-kick awarded close to the end line was played back out by Donoghue to Jason Abbott who fired over a hard low ball to the edge of the area that was neatly flicked home to the opposite corner of the net by Kevin Mulcahy past a stranded Doyle in the home goal, with the home sides' back four caught flat-footed making it 0-1.
But why Furlong is so special to the Youths was amply demonstrated two minutes later.
Peter Higgins picked out Aidan Keenan down the left. Keenan cut inside to deliver a ball across into the path of the lurking Furlong whose clinical left-footed shot ended in the bottom left hand corner of the net beating the diving Browne to make it 1-1. It was a typical Furlong finish that raised the home crowd back into full voice.
Furlong had a free-kick excellently tipped over by keeper Browne, while Doyle had to be alert to keep out a Mulligan shot but it remained 1-1 to the interval.
Following the break, it was the Youths who attacked incessantly on the resumption in search of a lead goal, and they were rewarded just two minutes into the second period. Peter Higgins cut between Graham McCarthy and Brendan Frahill but was adjudged by referee Anthony Buttimer to have been brought down, leaving Furlong to easily dispose of the resulting penalty to make it 2-1.
For the remainder of the game the respective back fours got a firm grip restricting the shots on goal to long-range efforts but it was the Youths who held firm to take the three crucial points and keep alive their quest for a very first national title.
Wexford Youths: Graham Doyle; Craig McCabe, Gary Delaney, Lee Grace, Ryan Delaney; Peter Higgins, Andy Mulligan (Craig Wall 88), Shane Dunne (Chris Kenny 77), Conor Whittle (Eric Molloy 86); Danny Furlong, Aidan Keenan.
Cobh Ramblers: David Browne; Graham McCarthy, Brendan Frahill, Kevin Mulcahy, Anthony O'Donnell; David Curran, Stephen Christoper, Jason Abbott, Shane O'Connor; Ryan Goldsmith, Bobby Donoghue (Jacob Buris 68).
Referee: Anthony Buttimer.