Draw gives Youths big boost
Derry left frustrated on second trip south in seven days
The basement battle in the SSE Airtricity Premier Division produced a couple of big talking points on Friday, with Wexford Youths working their way to a fully-merited scoreless home draw with Derry City while Longford Town travelled to Ballybofey and won for the first time since the season opener in Ferrycarrig Park.
Wexford Youths 0 Derry City 0
In the circumstances that point was absolutely vital for Shane Keegan's side, and it will certainly go down as one gained rather than two lost. It means that Finn Harps are now just four points above Youths in the table, and their clash in the south-east on the penultimate Friday of the season on October 21 looks like being a huge game for both clubs.
Meanwhile, Longford under new manager Alan Mathews will be buoyed by their long-awaited win, and they are now six points below Youths. A tenth-place finish, and with it a guarantee of a second season in the top flight, would be a massive achievement for captain Graham Doyle and his colleagues, and it's well within their grasp.
Scoreless draws are a rarity for Youths, and this was the first in 34 competitive fixtures in all competitions this year. Still, it was a welcome result given that Derry had prevailed 3-1 in their FAI Cup quarter-final clash at the same venue just seven nights earlier.
On that occasion Aaron McEneff had controlled proceedings from the base of the visitors' midfield and was a deserving winner of the man of the match award. However, he was a notable absentee this time due to suspension along with Dean Jarvis, while Ronan Curtis was relegated to the bench.
Into the side came Austrian Max Karner to partner Niclas Vemmelund from Denmark in the centre of the defence, while Harry Monaghan started in midfield and Nathan Boyle was a lively foil for Rory Patterson up front.
Youths - with the suspended Peter Higgins unavailable - made four changes as Stephen Last, Andrew O'Connor, Andy Mulligan and Shane Dempsey started in place of Aidan Friel, Chris Kenny, Shane Dunne and Jonny Bonner, with the pack shuffled and some interesting positional changes as a result.
While manager Keegan stuck to a 4-4-2, he deployed O'Connor on the left of midfield for the first time, with Lee Grace tucking in behind him at full-back. Eric Molloy started in a central midfield slot, but the loss of centre-back Gary Delaney to injury after 20 minutes meant that the new formation hadn't time to bed in.
Instead Grace took his spot in the middle, O'Connor reverted to his more familiar left full role, Molloy drifted out to the left flank, and Jonny Bonner came in to orchestrate matters from midfield.
Not for the first time, the heroics of netminder Graham Doyle played a key part in the outcome, and he was seen at his brilliant best when Derry carved out the best chance of the game in the 58th minute.
Rory Patterson and the lively Lucas Schubert combined to tee up Nathan Boyle in the box, but his low shot was superbly saved by the veteran number one.
Derry had looked very threatening after the half-time break, with Schubert shooting wide at the near post after just 48 seconds following a neat Conor McCormack pass.
The Austrian has happily returned to the game after his career was halted due to a heart problem, and he came very close to adding to his goal haul from the cup tie one week before.
Nathan Boyle had another very good opportunity just two minutes later but also missed the target, and Youths were living dangerously at that stage.
One of their own best chances had arrived in route one fashion in the 38th minute when Aidan Keenan got a flick on to Paul Murphy from Graham Doyle's long delivery. Derry netminder and captain Ger Doherty was off his line quickly, with Murphy's low shot deflecting up off his body and - after a few seconds when the crowd collectively held its breath - the ball ended up over the bar for a corner rather than landing in the net.
The visitors had hit the net seven minutes earlier courtesy of Rory Patterson after a Barry McNamee shot was deflected into his path, but the flag was raised for offside and Youths could relax.
Graham Doyle needed to be on his toes inside the opening 60 seconds as Nathan Boyle got in behind Stephen Last to reach a long delivery from Max Karner, but the Youths captain smothered his effort.
Gary Delaney got an assist on Shane Dempsey's free-kick in the third minute as Youths attacked for the first time, but Paul Murphy couldn't get any power behind his header.
Eric Molloy had a shot blocked after a Craig McCabe throw-in, and the Carlow man came agonisingly close to putting Youths ahead for the second week running in the ninth minute.
Dempsey had earned the first corner of the game which Andrew O'Connor swung in from the right. Molloy's first attempt was blocked but his second effort came back into play off the bar to the relief of Kenny Shiels' side.
Graham Doyle saved comfortably from Nathan Boyle, while Derry threatened again in the 14th minute when Boyle crossed to the far post and Lucas Schubert's header struck Lee Grace for a corner.
Gary Delaney cleared from Barry McNamee's setpiece before Conor McDermott scuffed a shot, but the centre-back's involvement in the action ended shortly afterwards as he was helped off the field.
Derry nearly made the most of the brief spell when their rivals only had ten men in action, with Graham Doyle knocking a Barry McNamee shot out for a corner.
Youths were restored to eleven with the arrival of Jonny Bonner, but they nearly conceded from Lucas Schubert's delivery as Rory Patterson got a flick on to Harry Monaghan, lurking at the far post, and the midfielder's effort wasn't too far off the mark.
Paul Murphy cleared the third Derry corner of the half before that offside goal, while Stephen Last got back to make a vital challenge after Nathan Boyle had dispossessed Lee Grace.
Jonny Bonner nearly had the home crowd on their feet in the 32nd minute when he swung his left boot first-time at the ball after good work by Murphy and Molloy, but it whizzed over the bar.
Harry Monaghan headed a Barry McNamee cross wide at the other end, with a corner from the latter cleared before Graham Doyle dealt with a cross/shot by Conor McDermott.
The fifth and final Derry corner of the half was thumped clear by Paul Murphy before a half-chance arose just before the break when Jonny Bonner nicked the ball off Monaghan, but Ger Doherty was off his line quickly to deal with the threat.
The Candystripes resumed full of menace with those two early chances before Rory Patterson and Shane Dempsey shot wide from distance at either end.
Lee Grace dealt well with a couple of forays from Nathan Boyle, and Graham Doyle then made the save of the game before Youths almost struck for a wonder goal.
There was a touch of Ricky Villa in the 1981 FA Cup final about Andrew O'Connor's mazy run from the left into the Derry box. He found Murphy who in turn teed up Jonny Bonner, but Ger Doherty was equal to the Donegal man's shot.
Rory Patterson tested Doyle with a head-high shot from distance before a Murphy chip was gathered by Doherty after Bonner's initial shot was blocked.
The chances were coming thick and fast, with Doherty claiming a loose ball as Andy Mulligan lurked menacingly following a Craig McCabe throw-in.
Paul Murphy had a shot saved after Andrew O'Connor's cross was initially headed out by Niclas Vemmelund, but he collected a yellow for his challenge on the goalkeeper.
A vital Lee Grace tackle ensured Lucas Schubert didn't pick out Rory Patterson, with Shane Dempsey booked after bringing Conor McCormack down before Derry's sole second-half corner ended with the latter firing wide.
There was danger for Youths when Grace entered the notebook for a foul on Patterson on the edge of the area in the 81st minute. Barry McNamee's shot was blocked before Ben Doherty hooked the ball back into the danger zone, but it was eventually cleared.
Young Eoin Porter replaced Paul Murphy up front as the game entered the closing stages, with a shot from Derry substitute Josh Daniels easily saved by Doyle while Aidan Keenan didn't trouble Doherty with his effort in the 89th minute.
Youths had the best opportunity at the death when Porter put pressure on Doherty whose hurried clearance went to Keenan. He found Eric Molloy on his left but the winger's shot was tipped over for a corner by the netminder who fully redeemed himself.
A free was conceded from Jonny Bonner's delivery, with Keenan and Doherty booked after the former attempted to delay the kick and the latter reacted with a harmless push.
The final whistle finally sounded 90 seconds over the three extra minutes announced, leaving Youths to reflect on a good night's work.
However, they had little time to recover before the trip last night (Monday) to Dalymount Park to face Bohemians.
Every game is a big one from now on, and the visit of Bray Wanderers to Ferrycarrig Park on Friday (8 p.m.) will be a south coast derby with a great deal at stake.
Wexford Youths: Graham Doyle (capt.); Craig McCabe, Gary Delaney, Stephen Last, Lee Grace; Andy Mulligan, Shane Dempsey, Eric Molloy, Andrew O'Connor; Paul Murphy, Aidan Keenan. Subs. - Jonny Bonner for Delaney, inj. (20), Eoin Porter for Murphy (83), Chris Kenny for Dempsey (90+1), also Danny Furlong, Aidan Friel, Shane Dunne, Corey Chambers.
Derry City: Ger Doherty (capt.); Conor McDermott, Max Karner, Niclas Vemmelund, Ben Doherty; Lucas Schubert, Conor McCormack, Harry Monaghan, Barry McNamee; Nathan Boyle, Rory Patterson. Subs. - Josh Daniels for Boyle (71), Rory Holden for Monaghan (87), also Shaun Patton, Keith Ward, Cristian Castells, Ronan Curtis, Cathal Farren.
Referee: Tomás Connolly (Dublin).