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Tuesday 11 December 2018

Ajax show their title credentials

Soccer, Wexford Football League: Ballymurn Celtic 2 Ajax Athletic 5

P.J. Bourke of Ballymurn Celtic is challenged by Liam Moore of Ajax Athletic
P.J. Bourke of Ballymurn Celtic is challenged by Liam Moore of Ajax Athletic

Dave Devereux in Crossabeg

Ajax Athletic showed their title credentials with a storming second-half as they overpowered Ballymurn in a lively Wexford Football League Division 3A encounter in Crossabeg Community Field on Sunday.

The visitors were clearly unhappy at half-time as they trailed 2-1 despite shading it in terms of possession, but they let their football do the talking after the interval, scoring four goals without reply.

That said, although their attack clicked into gear in the second 45 minutes, they were also indebted to goalkeeper Seán McGrath, who pulled off a superb save just before the hour mark with the score at 2-1.

If they had conceded then, their heads might have dropped, but instead the let-off gave them renewed urgency and vigour and they were back on level terms two minutes later, before controlling the final half hour and finishing off their shell-shocked prey with ruthless efficiency.

It was the hosts that made the early breakthrough when Luke Lacey pounced on a defensive lapse and confidently fired the ball past McGrath with twelve minutes on the clock.

The Enniscorthy side threatened a quick response, with Seán 'Beefy' Farnan and Adam Fox both heading over, before Glen Fortune forced a good save out of Aaron Stafford with a swerving effort from the edge of the area.

The Rajahs got the reward their efforts deserved in the 22nd minute, when Chris Hendrick rode a couple of challenges and fired in a shot that was deflected into the net by a Ballymurn defender.

Having got back on level terms it looked like Ajax would take control, but they were rocked back on their heels in first-half injury time when Ballymurn got their noses in front for a second time.

John Breen's free-kick into the danger zone was spilled by goalkeeper McGrath and, when P.J. Bourke sent the ball across the face of goal, Shane Campbell had the simple task of tapping it into the net.

Ajax began the second-half brightly with Adam Fox forcing a smart save out of Stafford, but Ballymurn came within a whisker of extending their advantage with 59 minutes on the clock.

Luke Lacey spotted that McGrath was a fraction off his line and tried a delicate chip, but the back-pedalling netminder did brilliantly to tip the ball on to the woodwork.

The close call seemed to light a fire under Ajax and moments later they were handed the opportunity to draw level when Glen Fortune showed quick feet in the area and was taken down for a penalty.

Up stepped Liam Moore and he unerringly blasted the spot-kick into the right-hand corner of the net out of the reach of goalkeeper Stafford.

With their tails up Ajax, who had won five out of six games going into this contest, continued to turn the screw and they went ahead for the first time with 17 minutes remaining.

Glen Fortune got on the end of a Moore cross and forced a fine save out of Stafford, but when the ball was recycled Fenwick O'Shea was quickest to react to apply the finish.

In the 82nd minute Ajax made sure they were heading back up the N11 with the points in the bag when they grabbed their fourth, with Robert Clifford collecting a delivery from fellow substitute Ross Wilson and sliding the ball to the net.

The busy Glen Fortune really came into his own in the second-half and he got the goal his performance deserved with six minutes remaining, running on to Liam Murphy's pass and looping a 20-yard shot over the fingertips of the goalkeeper to put the icing on the cake for Ajax.

Ballymurn Celtic: Aaron Stafford, James Murphy, Paul Larrissy, John Breen, Paul Walsh, P.J. Bourke, Shane O'Rourke, Paul Dempsey, Shane Whelan, Shane Campbell, Luke Lacey. Subs. - Iain Banville for Murphy (69), Michael Murphy for Dempsey (79).

Ajax Athletic: Seán McGrath, James Buckley, Fenwick O'Shea, Seán O'Shea, Adam Kirwan, Liam Moore, Liam Murphy, Glen Fortune, Chris Hendrick, Seán Farnan, Adam Fox. Subs. - Ross Wilson for S. O'Shea, inj (HT), Robert Clifford for Fox, inj (50).

Referee: Stephen Burke.

Wexford People