Youths drop down to third

Alan Aherne

Published 09/06/2015 | 00:00

Andy Mulligan of Wexford Youths tucks the ball past Greg Murray for his opening goal
Andy Mulligan of Wexford Youths tucks the ball past Greg Murray for his opening goal
Danny Furlong, who returned after a knee injury, takes aim

Wexford Youths will be hoping that their drop from second to third in the SSE Airtricity First Division table is only a temporary blip following this frustrating loss in an entertaining tie with Shelbourne in Ferrycarrig Park on Friday.

Wexford Youths 2 Shelbourne 3

Their disappointment at the result wasn't helped when news filtered through from Athlone that the home side had inflicted a first defeat of the season on leaders Finn Harps, as a great chance to close the gap was lost.

And with UCD hitting near neighbours Cabinteely for six on the same night, the upshot of it all is that Youths approach the re-fixture at home to Athlone tonight (Tuesday) on 21 points, which is seven behind Finn Harps and one below the Belfield students.

Gareth Coughlan was the chief thorn in the side on Friday as his hat-trick propelled Shels into fourth spot, now breathing down the necks of the side they conquered with 20 points.

And while Andy Mulligan netted twice for Youths, on another night he too could have been entitled to a match ball at the end as he came close to goaling on the first attack of note. That arrived in the third minute when Danny Furlong, on a welcome return from injury along with central defender Stephen Last, played him through, but Mulligan's shot was well saved by Greg Murray.

Mulligan didn't trouble the netminder with a second effort three minutes later, while Aidan Keenan had the first of three penalty appeals for Youths turned down following a Craig Wall cross in the eighth minute.

The home side looked uneasy at the back in the first quarter though, with Philip Hughes coming close from a Mark Sandford delivery before Danny Furlong headed a corner wide at the other end.

However, that edginess in front of Graham Doyle was punished in the twelfth minute when Dylan McGlade's cross from the right was finished expertly by the in-form Gareth Coughlan.

A handball appeal in the opposing penalty area was ignored before one goal became two in the 25th minute, and it was a real giveaway. Centre-half Gary Delaney placed an attempted pass into the path of Coughlan and, with his confidence sky high, he drilled a low shot to the bottom corner of Graham Doyle's net.

Youths were all at sea and Doyle made a good save from Dylan McGlade before Philip Hughes headed a Coughlan corner wide. A brighter spell saw Aidan Keenan's shot saved after a Craig Wall cross, while the number eleven then headed over from a Peter Higgins delivery.

Coughlan missed the target from a Shelbourne header in the 30th minute, with Andy Mulligan's probing leading to some strong defending before Gary Delaney knocked a Dylan McGlade cross out for a fruitless corner.

Coughlan shot over for the visitors while Mark Sandford's attempt was comfortably saved by Graham Doyle before the game was delayed when Ryan Robinson picked up a knock which seemed to leave him concussed.

And when the action resumed it was the cue for Wexford Youths to hit back as Danny Furlong glanced an Andy Mulligan cross wide before the duo combined again with a far better outcome in the 45th minute. This time Furlong threaded a lovely pass to his left to the inrushing Mulligan who side-footed the ball past Greg Murray to reduce the arrears to 2-1 at the break.

And Youths were really in business just three minutes into the new half when Mulligan doubled his tally, forcing home Craig McCabe's long throw from the right at the near post.

They had a let-off five minutes later though as Gary Delaney collected a costly yellow card and Gareth Coughlan's sweet free kick struck the crossbar and went over.

A Danny Furlong effort was deflected out for a corner before the striker had a penalty appeal turned down when Evan Osam appeared to obstruct him as he chased an Andy Mulligan knock-on in the 65th minute.

Three minutes later a big turning point arrived when Gary Delaney was dismissed on a second yellow for a challenge on the wily Philip Hughes to the left of the penalty area, with the Shels campaigner using his cuteness and not impressing the Youths contingent in the process.

Indeed, referee Robert Hennessey ordered a member of the coaching staff off the field following the intervention of fourth official Seán Grant.

While nothing came of the resultant free, the ten men were on the back foot although Furlong did shoot wide from a Peter Higgins cross. An Aidan Keenan effort didn't trouble netminder Greg Murray before Hughes headed wide at the other end, but Youths were undone by an exquisite finish in the 80th minute.

It was that man Gareth Coughlan again, completing his hat-trick as he curled in a beautiful left-footed effort to the far corner of Graham Doyle's net.

Danny Furlong had a long-range effort comfortably saved and Craig Wall shot over near the end, but defeat was the Youths' lot and they must now pick themselves up tonight versus Athlone Town.

Wexford Youths: Graham Doyle (capt.), Craig McCabe, Gary Delaney, Stephen Last, Jimmy Dermody (Conor English, 83), Peter Higgins, Andy Mulligan, Craig Wall, Danny Furlong, Eric Molloy (Lee Grace, 71), Aidan Keenan.

Shelbourne: Greg Murray, Adam O'Connor, Evan Osam, Ryan Robinson (Darragh Gannon, 45+3), Seán Heaney, Daire Doyle (capt.)., Gareth Coughlan, Craig Walsh (Colin Crowe, 61), Philip Hughes (Alan O'Sullivan, 84), Mark Sandford, Dylan McGlade.

Referee: Robert Hennessey (Limerick).

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