Youths remain on top of table
A STICKY performance was somewhat overshadowed by the result as Wexford Youths stayed top of the Continental Tyres Women's National League table with a come-from-behind victory against UCD Waves on Saturday.
At the end of the day a win is a win but Youths struggled to impose themselves on Dublin rivals who also came into the game unbeaten in the league - albeit with just two games played and no match since mid-November.
In fact, six goals might suggest a game littered with clearcut chances but that was far from the case. Apart from the goals it was UCD who created the better opportunities, with Tamara Furlong's point-blank save from Orlagh Nolan with seven minutes left one of the biggest moments in the game.
UCD finished last season strongly so they were never going to be the pushovers the high-quality Youths have encountered since the cup final. In Irish international Aine O'Gorman they had the best player on the pitch and she gave the Youths back three, missing the injured Jessica Gleeson, a torrid time.
Her threat was especially prevalent when the hosts played a little higher up the pitch in the first-half. The midfield was almost always flooded with six Youths and five Waves, making the game tight and often disjointed.
But UCD were happy to hit the channels and find O'Gorman, who was dragging Ruth Fahy out of position, and build from there. However, Youths set off on the front foot in the first ten minutes and tested a nervy Monika McGuirk.
When Emma Hansberry's free-kick was spilled by the visiting goalkeeper, Claire O'Riordan was just beaten to the ball by the defender before she could fire to the empty net.
Yet, there was no stopping Linda Douglas two minutes later when McGuirk fumbled a Hansberry corner and the winger poked to the net.
After Hansberry smacked a 12th-minute free over the crossbar, UCD settled and began to make inroads. The equaliser came after an incredible turn of events that saw both O'Gorman and Julie Ann Russell hit the woodwork before Russell squared back across goal and O'Gorman blocked Nicola Sinnott's attempted clearance to the net.
The champions haven't been pushed much recently but their resolve was tested when Jetta Berrill crossed from the right wing and O'Gorman headed, completely untouched, past Furlong to make it 2-1 in the visitors' favour.
Youths didn't have the chance to dwell on being behind for the first time since the Cup final as Furlong's long punt forward, just seconds after the Waves goal, saw Claire O'Riordan beat the defence for pace and find the net at the second attempt.
Goals don't come much better than Kylie Murphy's that gave Wexford the lead in the 44th minute. When O'Riordan laid off to the Youths captain there was only one thing on her mind as she let rip with a screamer into the top right corner from the edge of the box.
O'Gorman went close when hitting the side-netting after half-time but Becky Cassin made no mistake at the other end after she collected Edel Kennedy's ball forward and looped an immaculate finish over McGuirk to the Waves net.
Chances were few and far between as the Youths midfield played a little deeper in the second-half. Furlong was in top form when called upon between the sticks and O'Gorman wasn't allowed to drag the hosts' defence around like before.
Another three points on the board means Wexford go into next week's game with Peamount (Saturday, 7.30 p.m.), their first away league game of the season, on top of the table and with every expectation of staying there.
Wexford Youths: Tamara Furlong; Nicola Sinnott, Ruth Fahy, Ciara Rossiter; Linda Douglas, Emma Hansberry, Kylie Murphy (capt.), Becky Cassin, Edel Kennedy, Aisling Frawley; Claire O'Roirdan. Subs. - Aoibhinn Webb for Cassin (57), Claire Conlon for Douglas (79), Orlaith Conlon for Rossiter (90), also Rachel Hutchinson, Shauna Wall, Meghan Whitty, Rianna Jarrett.
UCD Waves: Monika McGuirk; Jetta Berrill, Ali O'Brien, Emily Cahill, Chloe Muskati; Julie Ann Russell, Caroline Thorpe, Karen Duggan, Orlagh Nolan, Niamh Prior; Aine O'Gorman (capt.). Subs. - Rebekah Carroll for O'Brien (69), Susan Hackett for Thorpe (79).
Referee: Jimmy O'Neill.