Croke double downs Cabo
Wexford F.C.2 Cabinteely 0
Wexford F.C. players will be looking at the SSE Airtricity First Division table with a degree of satisfaction this week for the first time since early March after a brace of goals from top scorer Thomas Croke powered the side to a fully-deserved 2-0 win over Cabinteely in Ferrycarrig Park on Friday.
The outcome means that the south-east crew have finally leap-frogged Athlone at the foot of the table, after occupying the basement slot since the conclusion of the third series of games over five months ago.
And while it may not be a huge achievement in the overall scheme of things to be placed ninth in a group of ten, it certainly gives the players an incentive for the last four games of the season.
They now sit two points above the midlanders, so the obvious target should be to stay there and avoid the ignominy of finishing last.
Realistically that's the only achievable goal because they are eleven points adrift of Shelbourne with just twelve available so, with the best will in the world, it's highly unlikely that the gap will be bridged.
Croke is now a clear leader on the list of marksmen with six goals, and his first in the eleventh minute was a real cracker and set the tone for the evening.
Danny Doyle raced down the right flank and delivered a cross to Dean Kelly whose shot was blocked, but it broke perfectly for the Waterford-born midfielder who met the ball first-time and at full speed to direct a stunning drive from outside the area past the helpless Cabinteely netminder, Mick Kelly.
His second came 20 minutes later from another familiar source, as Craig McCabe's long throw-in from the right skimmed off a head at the near post and the inrushing Croke was on hand to guide the ball to the net once again.
Wexford remained in control for most of the second-half and were unfortunate not to score more than two goals in a game for the first time this season, as the woodwork saved the Dubliners twice.
A foul on Croke on the left in the 53rd minute gave Dean Kelly the chance to try his luck from the set-piece, and he was very unfortunate to see his sweet strike come back into play off the near post.
And when a Kelly shot was deflected for a corner in the 76th minute, centre-half Owen McCormack came forward in a bid to add to his first goal of the season in that cup loss to Crumlin one week earlier.
His head got on the end of Kelly's delivery but this time he was unlucky to see the ball strike the crossbar before flying over.
Cabinteely did have a big chance to get back into contention with eight minutes left when referee David Keeler pointed to the spot for a penalty after Ryan Swan shot over the bar, but new netminder Danny Bolger was equal to the task as he dived low to his right to make a brilliant save from Kieran 'Marty' Waters.
It was important to bounce back quickly from that early cup exit, with that particular pill made even more bitter to swallow when conquerors Crumlin drew Dundalk at home in the second round.
A visit of the Premier Division titleholders, albeit not for long more, would have created a special atmosphere and brought in the best gate of the season, but it wasn't to be.
Instead, Wexford went on the field determined to finally get off the bottom, and they took heart from their last visit to Stradbrook when Eoin Porter's goal had secured a 1-0 win over Cabo.
He was one of three players who dropped to the bench along with Conor Dunne and A.J. Lehane, with captain Craig McCabe, Danny Doyle and Dean George making the first eleven.
Midfielder Shane Dunne was thousands of miles away, having played the full 90 minutes for Ireland in their scoreless draw with France in the opening game of the World University Games in Taipei earlier in the day.
Cabo attacker Joe Doyle was also missing for the same reason, but they looked more threatening early on as Ryan Swan shot over from an Aaron Robinson cross before a Conor Keeley header struck the post via Seán Hurley from a Kieran 'Marty' Waters free-kick.
Dean Kelly may have taken over the set-piece duties by default during the recent absences of Mark Slater and Shane Dunne, but he has really shown his worth and outlined his quality once again in the seventh minute.
His free-kick from the left was whipped in to perfection, and Thomas Croke's header forced a fine save out of Mick Kelly who was relieved to see his defence clear the resultant corner.
That cracking opener from Croke was just around the corner, and it gave Wexford the confidence to grow into the game and give one of their best performances of the season.
Ross Kenny did collect a yellow card for a foul on Ryan Swan in the 17th minute, but Conor Earley directed a tame free-kick into Danny Bolger's grateful arms.
The Carlow man wasn't tested either by a first-time Kieran 'Marty' Waters shot before Dean George had a drive blocked in the aftermath of Wexford's second corner.
Seán Hurley cleared Cabinteely's first at the other end, while Owen McCormack got his body in the way of a Waters shot after a neat turn and pass from the lively Cory Galvin.
Goal number two from Croke gave Wexford a precious cushion, with Dean George shooting over from a long Owen McCormack ball in their last attack of note before half-time in the 34th minute.
Cabinteely did create one good opening, only to see Cory Galvin's shot well saved with his feet by the impressive Bolger who looks like he is well capable of surviving at this level.
Indeed, he had to be alert again a mere 36 seconds into the new half when he turned Evan Galvin's shot from the left around the post for a corner, before fisting the ball clear from the set-piece on the right.
Bolger then got his body behind a long-range shot from full-back Roy McGee, while a second Cabo corner in the half came to nothing before Aaron Dobbs had a shot blocked at the other end.
Kelly's near miss from that free-kick followed, with Mick Kelly then advancing smartly off his line to ensure Dean George didn't get on the end of a long punt by Craig McCabe.
Goalscorer Croke departed with just under half an hour to go after picking up a knock, and Dobbs couldn't make the most of his cross after a neat pass into space from George.
Cabinteely's Kieran 'Marty' Waters nearly availed of a sliced clearance but the danger was quickly averted, while the excellent Bolger came to the rescue once more in the 65th minute.
Waters and Ryan Swan combined before a Conor Earley drive was blocked, with the break falling to Waters whose effort brought the very best out of the netminder.
Seán Hurley was booked but the free-kick that followed was crashed into the wall by Earley, while Swan had a very weak penalty claim turned down before McCormack struck the bar at the other end.
Cory Galvin shot over from a Swan lay-off, and Danny Bolger then produced another magical moment with that stunning penalty save to finally kill off the threat of a late Cabinteely comeback.
Eoin Porter saw yellow before Bolger claimed a Steven Ball cross from the left, with Owen McCormack clearing a late header from Conor Keeley as Wexford were left to celebrate their fourth win of the campaign and only the second at home.
They have this coming weekend off due to their non-involvement in the second round of the cup, and they will be on the road on Friday, September 1, to take on U.C.D. at 7.45 p.m.
Two home games will follow, against champions-elect Waterford on the 15th and Shelbourne on the 22nd, before the campaign will conclude away to Longford Town on October 7.
Wexford F.C.: Danny Bolger; Craig McCabe (capt.), Owen McCormack, Ross Kenny, Seán Hurley; Mikey Byrne; Danny Doyle, Thomas Croke, Dean Kelly, Dean George; Aaron Dobbs. Subs. - Conor Sutton for Croke (63), Andrew O'Connor for George (72), Eoin Porter for Doyle (77), also Adam Dempsey, A.J. Lehane, Conor Dunne.
Cabinteely: Mick Kelly; Aaron Robinson, Conor Keeley, Conor Earley, Roy McGee; Cory Galvin, Daire Doyle (capt.), Anto Dolan, Evan Galvin; Kieran Waters, Ryan Swan. Subs. - Seán Fitzpatrick for Dolan (58), Gareth McCaffrey for Robinson (79), Steven Ball for E. Galvin (83), also Jack Menton, Dean Casey, Paul Fox, Michael Scott.
Referee: David Keeler (Cork).