Ramblers recover for victory
Wexford FC 1 Cobh Ramblers 2
While certain aspects of the overall display were undoubtedly much improved, the end result was depressingly familiar in Ferrycarrig Park on Friday when Cobh Ramblers recovered from a missed penalty and a one-goal deficit to inflict a fifth defeat of the SSE Airtricity First Division season on bottom of the table Wexford F.C.
The home side seemed to be on course for a positive outcome when a superb spot-kick save from Corey Chambers was followed by Adam Hanlon's first goal for the club in the opening quarter, but that's where the good news ended.
Cobh had looked threatening before falling in arrears to be fair, and they drew level less than seven minutes after conceding before pouncing for the winner with quarter of an hour left.
As a spectacle it was a lot more entertaining and eventful than the mediocre fare witnessed in the scoreless draw with Longford Town one week earlier.
And in a game full of incident, referee Andrew Mullally incurred the wrath of home supporters just after Cobh had equalised when he deemed that Adam Hanlon had taken a dive in the box following a challenge from Ben O'Riordan.
The Wexford scorer raced on to a quickly-taken Ricky Fox free-kick before tumbling to the ground, and there was dismay when the man in the middle decided to penalise the attacker rather than pointing to the spot.
The attendance of 386 was an improvement on the average for home fixtures thus far, and a special word must go to the young visitors from Highview Athletic in Graiguenamanagh who added greatly to the atmosphere with their constant chants of support.
Indeed, they parked their county loyalties to Kilkenny for 90 minutes as cries of 'Wexford, Wexford' rent the air, and club officials could do a lot worse than inviting them back to provide more vocal backing in future.
Cobh have been impressing in the top half of the division, and their rivals were fortunate that Stephen Christopher delayed his shot a fraction in the third minute after good approach work by Cian Coleman and Craig Donnellan.
Right-back Charlie Fleming was a constant source of decent crosses throughout the first-half, although Kyle McNamara couldn't make the most of his opening delivery as Ricky Fox did enough to put him off.
Still, it was constant Ramblers pressure in the early stages, and Fleming showed another side to his game in the eighth minute when his looping header after their first corner - taken by Donnellan - forced Corey Chambers into a fingertips save as he directed the ball over the bar.
Craig Wall collected a yellow card before another Fleming cross in the twelfth minute was met with a downward header by centre-forward Matthew Whelan, forcing Chambers into his second impressive stop.
However, referee Mullally felt that Craig McCabe had pushed his direct opponent and awarded a dubious penalty, with Wexford's captain for the night in the ongoing absence of the injured Graham Doyle also booked for his troubles.
It seemed like an extremely harsh call, but Chambers was equal to the task as he dived low to his left and made a marvellous save from Chris McCarthy's spot-kick.
The corner that arose was headed wide, but Wexford needed to lift the siege because they had created nothing of note up to that point.
Shane Dunne did deliver a ball for Adam Hanlon to chase in the 22nd minute, but netminder Paul Hunt was out quickly and hacked it out for a throw on the left.
McCabe was the man for that task, coming forward to reprise one of his main functions from last season when his lengthy deliveries often caused consternation in the opposing box.
And this time was no different, as his throw went off a defender's head into the path of Hanlon who met the ball sweetly with his right boot on the edge of the area and tucked it into the left corner of the net.
Taking time added on at the end of each half into account, it was the first Wexford goal in 309 minutes of league football by my reckoning, or 402 minutes of competitive fare if one adds in the EA Sports Cup loss to Waterford.
The home side hadn't scored since Ross Kenny's header in the 52nd minute against U.C.D. at the same venue on St. Patrick's Day, so to suggest this was long overdue must rank as a gross understatement.
After drawing league blanks against Waterford, Shelbourne and Longford respectively, the relief was palpable when Hanlon got off the mark with his first goal in a Wexford jersey.
The leaders couldn't relax though, with Matthew Whelan caught offside after an Ian Mylod cross before he earned his team's fourth corner with a header from another delivery by Charlie Fleming which deflected off Ricky Fox.
Craig Hayes cleared the danger, but shortly afterwards the defence was nearly breached when Mylod played a one-two with Kyle McNamara and slid a low ball across goal, with nobody on hand to apply the finishing touch.
When the equaliser did come it was a scrappy affair, with luck deserting Wexford. The source was very familiar, as a Fleming cross found Whelan whose header went off Craig McCabe for the fifth Ramblers corner.
Craig Donnellan took it on the right, with a half clearance falling at the feet of Cian Coleman whose scuffed shot was turned into the net by the outstretched boot of centre-half James McSweeney, wrong-footing Corey Chambers in the process.
Losing the lead in such a short space of time was a bitter blow for a team low on confidence to begin with given results to date, but in truth it was no surprise that Ramblers scored purely on the basis of chances created.
As if Wexford fans weren't annoyed enough, their anger grew just under two minutes later when Adam Hanlon collected that controversial yellow card after ending up on the ground in the box.
They did force a couple of late corners which came to nothing, while the last chance fell to Matthew Whelan, who posed constant problems for Owen McCormack in particular, but on this occasion he got his angles completely wrong and his misdirected header didn't pose a threat.
The action resumed with Craig McCabe making a good tackle in the area to deny Kyle McNamara, and Wexford went close to regaining the lead in the 48th minute after Cobh captain Chris McCarthy was booked for a foul on Seán Hurley in a central position.
Shane Dunne ran over the ball and Ricky Fox's drive broke into the path of Craig Hayes who knocked it past netminder Hunt, only for Charlie Fleming to make a goal-line clearance.
Owen McCormack headed a Dunne free over the bar, while Ross Kenny also got his head on another long throw from McCabe but Cobh were able to lift the siege when they were awarded a free.
Eoin Porter was the next name to enter the notebook, having missed out on an earlier goal chance when he was penalised for a push.
Goalkeeper Hunt then spilled a cross from Adam Hanlon, with James McSweeney mopping up and conceding a corner taken by Dunne which was cleared.
Another Dunne delivery from the right was a shade too long for Craig Hayes, while Cian Coleman's low cross for Cobh went under Ross Kenny's foot but fortunately there was no attacker on hand to capitalise.
Kyle McNamara headed wide from a Charlie Fleming cross, while Eoin Porter dealt with Ramblers' first corner of the half in the 67th minute.
Cobh hadn't threatened nearly as much on the whole after the interval, but they still pounced for the winner in the 75th minute. It came after a move featuring Fleming and substitutes Jason Abbott and Ross Mann which led to a corner on the right.
Abbott floated it to the back post where Matthew Whelan had completely lost his marker, with Corey Chambers jumping with him in vain as the centre-forward headed home from close range.
Danny Doyle and Mark Slater were quickly introduced while John McKeown followed shortly afterwards, but Cobh could have wrapped it up four minutes later only for a poor touch by Mann at the back post after good approach work from Craig Donnellan and Scott McCarthy.
Wexford couldn't capitalise on two corners in quick succession, but a third almost produced something as Adam Hanlon headed over from McKeown's delivery.
Hanlon then drove a free-kick into the wall after a foul on Eoin Porter, and two more corners proved fruitless before Cobh saw out the four added minutes to claim their fourth win which leaves them third in the table, only separated from second-placed U.C.D. by scoring difference.
Wexford remain rooted to the bottom and will be on the road this Friday when they travel to Lissywollen to take on Athlone Town who are only four points above them in seventh, having gradually lost their way after wins home to Waterford and away to Wexford on the first two weekends.
The midlanders have only added one more point since, in a dramatic late 3-3 draw with Cabinteely, and with 22 goals conceded thus far, it will be a clash of the teams with the poorest defensive record (Athlone) and the lowest scorers (Wexford).
Wexford F.C.: Corey Chambers; Craig McCabe (capt.), Owen McCormack, Ross Kenny; Ricky Fox, Craig Wall, Eoin Porter, Shane Dunne, Seán Hurley; Adam Hanlon, Craig Hayes. Subs. - Danny Doyle for Hayes (76), Mark Slater for Wall (78), John McKeown for Dunne (82), also Seán Eve, Andrew O'Connor, Liam Donnelly, Adam Dempsey.
Cobh Ramblers: Paul Hunt; Charlie Fleming, Ben O'Riordan, James McSweeney, Ian Mylod; Stephen Christopher, Cian Coleman, Chris McCarthy (capt.), Craig Donnellan, Kyle McNamara; Matthew Whelan. Subs. - Jason Abbott for McCarthy (58), Ross Mann for Christopher (66), Scott McCarthy for McNamara (70), also Michal Sadys, Shane Lowth, Cian Kingston, Dean Swords.
Referee: Andrew Mullally (Waterford).
FIRST DIVISION TABLE
P W D L F A Pt
Waterford FC 8 5 2 1 13 5 17
UCD 8 4 2 2 14 7 14
Cobh Rblers 8 4 2 2 15 11 14
Shelbourne 8 3 3 2 11 11 12
Cabinteely FC 8 3 2 3 13 11 11
Longford Tn 8 2 3 3 7 8 9
Athlone Town 8 2 1 5 10 22 7
Wexford FC 8 0 3 5 4 12 3