Survival hopes fading fast
Fourth loss against 14-man Sligo increases pressure
The hope engendered by that one-point win versus Limerick one week earlier wasn't translated into further success in Markievicz Park on Sunday when Wexford slumped to a fourth loss from five outings in Division 3 of the Allianz Football League to 14-man Sligo.
Sligo 2-10 - Wexford 1-8
Now it looks like demotion to the basement will be extremely hard to avoid, particularly as the last two group games are against promotion contenders Fermanagh (home) and Tipperary (away).
The second-half display simply wasn't good enough for Wexford to take anything from this tough trip to the north-west, with the team unable to make the most of a numerical advantage while they had the wind in their favour.
They appeared to be in serious bother midway through the second quarter when they trailed by 1-6 to 0-1, but a good recovery yielded an unanswered 1-1 before the break.
And when the first two points were added on the re-start, momentum was building and Sligo's lead of 1-6 to 1-4 looked very unhealthy.
Alas, there was no further score from the visitors for all of 24 minutes, with the second Sligo goal taking them further away from the relegation zone just seven days after posting a 2-26 tally at the same venue to defeat Louth.
Team captain Ciarán Lyng drove a late penalty over the bar while Graeme Cullen also came close to finding the net in the second period, but ultimately Wexford came up short once more as a miserable football year for the county to date continues.
Michael Furlong's absence through suspension led to a call-up at left half-back for Under-21 captain John Tubritt, with Simon Donohoe dropping back into the corner.
Jamie Carty's good showing at midfield after his introduction against Limerick led to a start in the same position while another Under-21, Kilanerin's Niall Hughes, was also selected at corner-forward.
Wexford were against the wind in the opening half and although a couple of attackers dropped back to aid the backs, they still conceded the first four points before Ciarán Lyng finally got them off the mark from a Tiarnan Rossiter pass in the 19th minute.
Within seconds a big body-blow was shipped though as Sligo full-forward Pat Hughes earned a penalty which Adrian Marren drilled to the net, before a Mark Breheny point widened the gap to 1-5 to 0-1.
Wexford were floundering but gained a lifeline in the 26th minute. Colm Kehoe drove in a free which Lyng tapped in the direction of Rossiter who found the top corner of the net and narrowed the gap to five points. The momentum stalled with a bad miss from a free before Sligo were reduced to 14 men when full-forward Pat Hughes collected a second yellow card for a high challenge on Brian Malone.
Lyng converted the free which followed, with Wexford's second wide arriving before the half concluded with them behind by 1-6 to 1-2.
With wind advantage and an extra man, the re-start was certainly positive as Ben Brosnan converted a free before a sweet strike from the left by John Tubritt narrowed the gap to a very manageable 1-6 to 1-4.
That's where it all started to go badly wrong though as centre-back Kieran Butler was lost to a black card and that barren spell of 24 long, frustrating minutes followed.
The best opening arrived at a time when they trailed by 1-8 to 1-4, 18 minutes from the end, but Graeme Cullen's shot was deflected for a '45 after Paddy Byrne and Jamie Carty featured in the build-up.
The outcome was well and truly decided in the 60th minute when Keelan Cawley's centre found the wily Mark Breheny who outsmarted two defenders before dodging the advancing Anthony Masterson and finding an empty net for a game-ending 2-9 to 1-4 lead.
Although Ben Brosnan and Ciarán Lyng reduced the gap to six with points, Sligo remained comfortable despite kicking several wides.
Lyng added a pointed free and had a chance for a consolation goal when Brosnan earned a last-gasp penalty after Kevin O'Grady sent in a hit and hope effort.
However, the day was just about summed up when Lyng drilled his spot kick over rather than under the bar, leaving the side with two must-win games against Fermanagh in Innovate Wexford Park on March 29 at 1 p.m., and against Tipperary in Clonmel one week later at 3 p.m.
On the evidence of all known form to date, it will be one of the county's greatest escapes yet if we are not mingling with the minnows in Division 4 next season - a truly appalling vista and not the start to David Power's reign that he would have envisaged.
Wexford: Anthony Masterson; Páraic O'Keeffe, Rob Tierney, Simon Donohoe; Brian Malone, Kieran Butler, John Tubritt (0-1); Colm Kehoe, Jamie Carty; Kevin O'Grady, Graeme Cullen, Tiarnan Rossiter (1-0); Ben Brosnan (0-2, 1 free), Ciarán Lyng (capt., 0-5, 2 frees, 1 pen.), Niall Hughes. Subs. - Naomhan Rossiter for Butler (black card), Paddy Byrne for O'Keeffe, James Holmes for Cullen, Jim White for Carty, Graham Carty for Hughes.
Sligo: Aidan Devaney; Daniel Maye, Kevin McDonnell, Ross Donovan; Keelan Cawley, Eoin Flanagan, Brendan Egan; Cian Breheny, Niall Murphy (0-4); Neil Ewing, Mark Breheny (capt., 1-2), Criostóir Davey (0-1); David Kelly, Pat Hughes, Adrian Marren (1-3, 1-0 pen., 0-1 free). Subs. - Johnny Martyn for Maye, Stephen Gilmartin for Breheny, Stephen Coen for Davey, Luke Bree for McDonnell, Darragh McConnon for Flanagan, Charlie Harrison for Kelly.
Referee: James Molloy (Galway).