Douglas leads charge against ex-colleagues
Linda Douglas was the Youths star against her old team as Wexford moved within a victory of retaining their Continental Tyres Women's National League title after dismissing Peamount on Wednesday.
Wexford Youths 3 Peamount United 0
The tricky winger was in irresistible form on the right flank, tearing United to pieces with a devastating mixture of penetrative runs and precision passing. Douglas opened the scoring in the eighth minute and her fleeting self-confidence soared as she tormented Rachel Doyle all evening with her tireless running, with and without the ball.
Inspired by their diminutive winger, Wexford were able to move within two points of the league title without ever hitting their top form. Peamount were energetic opponents and gave a good account of themselves.
Had the hosts taken their chances then this could have been a really tricky assignment for Youths. Jessica Gleeson probably had her toughest game of the year as Amber Barrett gave her all she could handle, mixing pace with ample strength to consistently threaten the Wexford defensive lynch-pin.
While Barrett was the stand-out for United, the three playing behind her caused their own problems. Both Ruth Fahy and Nicola Sinnott performed well but were surely left isolated a few too many times for manager Will Doyle's liking.
The double-ups on the flanks occasionally created clear chances for Peamount but Tamara Furlong's positioning was superb and she dealt with everything within her grasp with the minimum of fuss.
Midfield is usually a strength for Youths but at times they looked like a team playing their fifth game in 14 days. In the first-half in particular, they were caught in possession way too often but as the energy of their opponents waned, they grew in stature as a unit.
The fact that they finished the game stronger than they started it boded well for Sunday's clash in Galway. It would be understandable if Wexford were dropping off the pace late on, given their horrific run of fixtures, but their strong pre-season work seems to be standing to them in this testing time.
Their tempo wasn't that high as they set about attacking Peamount. However, Lauren Dwyer, making her second start in a row, did test Brooke Dunne with an early strike from outside the box.
When Emma Hansberry picked up possession between the lines in the eighth minute, in a position she would often choose to shoot from, she decided to lay it off right to Douglas. The Youths winger repaid her faith with a delicious chip over Dunne to the Pea's net.
Douglas nearly created a second, sending Gleeson's free across goal two minutes later, but Dunne was alert and came to claim with Claire O'Riordan lurking. Immediately at the other end, Barrett got in but her shot was too weak to test Furlong.
Wexford had a couple of dead-balls that proved fruitless but the second goal wasn't far away. When it came it was all about O'Riordan as she nicked the ball back on the edge of the box and swivelled, getting enough power on the shot to leave Dunne flat-footed and send it to the bottom corner.
After the second goal, Wexford had a really sticky patch for ten minutes. Barrett got in behind the defence and chipped onto the Youths crossbar before the visitors were stretched again four minutes later when Gleeson sliced a clearance and the United striker volleyed over.
Wexford settled again and almost grabbed a third when O'Riordan sliced into Douglas' path. The winger chose to control rather than hit first time, and she got her shot away but Dunne saved. O'Riordan later fired over from Sinnott's through ball as Youths went in 2-0 to the good.
Peamount came out with intent after the break, as Sara McKevitt got in and forced Furlong into a smart save. Moments after Kylie Murphy slid Douglas away and she shot across goal and wide, United got in again at the other end as Barrett beat the defence only to see Furlong save.
The game's third goal was always going to be key and it came for Wexford in the 57th minute. The best move of the match started with Nicola Sinnott in defence and flowed through Murphy and Douglas before Hansberry raced to the byline on the right. The Sligo native crossed for O'Riordan, who laid-off for Dwyer to stroke past Dunne from the edge of the box.
The goal killed of the Peamount drive as Wexford bossed the last 30 minutes. Claire O'Riordan saw a shot saved by Dunne from Gleeson's long ball, Edel Kennedy poked at the stopper from Hansberry's corner, and Douglas headed wide at the back post from Ruth Fahy's cross.
When Hansberry slipped O'Riordan in, the I.T. Carlow star smashed her shot narrowly over the crossbar. Aisling Frawley, lively on the left, cut in and saw a shot saved by Barrett, who also stood up to stop Aoibhín Webb's strike deep into added time.
There was a slight worry for the league leaders as Jessica Gleeson was forced off near the end. The centre-back crumpled to the ground after missing the proper connection on a defensive header, and she came off looking groggy.
Wexford Youths: Tamara Furlong; Nicola Sinnott, Jessica Gleeson, Ruth Fahy; Edel Kennedy; Linda Douglas, Kylie Murphy (capt.), Emma Hansberry, Aisling Frawley; Lauren Dwyer; Claire O'Riordan. Subs. - Becky Cassin for Dwyer (68), Rachel Hutchinson for Hansberry (79), Aoibhín Webb for Gleeson, inj. (87), also Shauna Wall, Orlaith Conlon, Amy Walsh, Meghan Whitty.
Peamount: Brooke Dunne; Lauren O'Callaghan, Louise Corrigan, Lauren Kealy, Rachel Doyle; Emma Byrne, Niamh Farrelly; Sara McKevitt, Roma McLoughlin, Claire Kinsella (capt.); Amber Barrett. Subs. - Lauren Kelly for Byrne (82), Isabella Finnegan for O'Callaghan (85), Danielle Murray for McKevitt (87), also Emma Donoghue, Emer Lafferty, Naoise McAloon, Lucy McCarton.
Referee: Deirdre Nolan.