Friday 24 May 2019

Another loss on home soil

Soccer, SSE Airtricity First Division: Wexford FC 0 Longford Town 2

Alan Aherne in Ferrycarrig Park

On the face of it, a 2-0 home defeat to Longford Town in game twelve of the SSE Airtricity First Division on Friday could be regarded as progress of sorts, coming just four days after that embarrassment against U.C.D.

While many onlookers expected heads to roll during the week, instead there was a special insert in the match programme containing apologies from manager Damian Locke and captain Ross Kenny, along with a guarantee to do a lot better.

And certainly the effort expended by Wexford this time around couldn't be questioned in any way, with midfielder Mikey Byrne leading the way in trying to raise the spirits.

However, from a footballing point of view, this was about as comfortable a 2-0 win for the visitors as one could ever hope to see, a fact underlined by a salient point from the second-half.

In that entire 48 minutes in total, Wexford didn't create even one scoring opportunity, and failed to muster a shot of any description, either on or off target.

All they came up with was one corner, and that amounted to nothing when an attacking player handled the ball in the box.

Longford scored a goal in either half, and that proved more than enough to travel back to the midlands with the three points as they played the game at their tempo throughout and managed it effectively.

There's still five games to go before the mid-season break: away to Drogheda United this coming Friday, home to Finn Harps on May 25, away to Shelbourne on June 1, away to Cobh Ramblers on June 9, and home to Galway United on June 15.

And unless the general form picks up and some points are garnered along the way, then that fortnight's holiday from onfield action will involve a lot of soul-searching for those responsible for the upkeep of the club.

Seán Kelly, Dean Kelly and Dean George dropped out of the starting eleven from the U.C.D. debacle, with captain Ross Kenny returning as the left-sided centre-half after his second one-game suspension, while Thomas Croke and Liam McCartan were retained after coming on earlier in the week.

Wexford competed on an even footing with Longford in the early stages, with a Shane Barnes attempt blocked while Ryan Nolan fired to the left and wide from long distance.

The midlanders' main marksman, Chris Mulhall, didn't get hold of his first shot properly, while a half-volley by Jamie Hollywood forced Kealan Gaffney into a decent save.

The opening goal arrived in the 19th minute, after Mikey Byrne conceded a corner with a wild swing at the ball.

Darren Meenan's set-piece found Hollywood in space just inside the box, and he controlled the ball before placing it into the top corner of the net with his left boot.

Longford's dominance was never in doubt thereafter, although they only mustered one more reasonable chance before the interval when Kealan Gaffney wasn't troubled by a head-high Dylan McGlade shot.

The traffic was one-way on the re-start, with Sam Verdon and lively half-time substitute Evan Galvin exerting plenty of influence for the leaders.

Verdon forced Gaffney into a good stop at his near post early on, but the lead was doubled in the 55th minute.

McGlade's corner from the right was initially headed across goal by Chris Mulhall, before it was knocked back into the centre-forward's path. His second connection in the air was enough to get the ball over the line, with Verdon on hand to make sure after the linesman had signalled for the goal.

Verdon and Tristan Noack-Hofmann couldn't keep shots down, but Wexford never looked like creating a chance, let alone eating into that comfortable Longford lead.

Owen McCormack cleared an 84th-minute lob by Evan Galvin after Kealan Gaffney was caught in no man's land after a stray clearance, while a poor back pass put Dean Byrne through but Wexford's netminder saved with an outstretched foot.

That makes it four league losses on the trot since the 7-0 demolition of Athlone Town, and it's unlikely to get any easier with a trip to United Park up next to face Drogheda on Friday (7.45 p.m.).

Wexford F.C.: Kealan Gaffney; A.J. Lehane, Owen McCormack, Ross Kenny (capt.), Seán Hurley; Mikey Byrne, Thomas Croke; Liam McCartan, Ryan Nolan, Mark Slater; Shane Barnes. Subs. - Dean George for Slater (55), Dean Kelly for Nolan (72), Danny Doyle for McCartan (82), also Colum Feeney, Seán Kelly, John Morgan, Aaron Dobbs.

Longford Town: Mick Kelly; Shane Elworthy, Mick McDonnell, Dan O'Reilly, Tristan Noack-Hofmann; Jamie Hollywood, Dean Zambra (capt.), Sam Verdon; Darren Meenan, Chris Mulhall, Dylan McGlade. Subs. - Evan Galvin for Meenan (HT), Dean Byrne for Mulhall (71), Jackson Ryan for Hollywood (77), also Jack Brady, Adam O'Connor, Karl Chambers, Daniel Ryan.

Referee: Tom Dempsey (Dublin).

Wexford People