Crushing late loss to Longford
Soccer, SSE Airtricity Division 1: Wexford FC 1 Longford Town 2
The chances of Wexford F.C. getting off the foot of the SSE Airtricity First Division table appeared strong entering the last quarter of Friday's clash with Longford Town at a rain-lashed Ferrycarrig Park.
The home side had led from the 17th minute thanks to Danny Furlong's first goal of the season, while the other team stuck on three points, Galway United, trailed Limerick and subsequently lost to them on a 1-0 scoreline.
The midlanders boasted an impressive pedigree, as the sole unbeaten side in the division with three wins, two draws, plus a game in hand.
Furlong's goal was only the second they have conceded thus far, and a much-improved Wexford were unfortunate not to double their advantage when centre-half Darragh O'Connor was deemed to be offside when he headed a Ryan Nolan free-kick to the net in the 50th minute.
The vocal travelling supporters were starting to grow restless, but they were singing in the rain by the end after Longford eventually wore down their resilient rivals and drew level before coming up with the winner in the 84th minute.
Wexford had been under a lot of pressure before that equaliser, living dangerously from four corners before their resolve was eventually broken.
When lively full-back Shane Elworthy found Sam Verdon with a low cross, the ex-Shelbourne man calmly picked his spot past Corey Chambers in the 76th minute to score his third goal of the campaign.
Wexford's best player, Jack Doherty, fired a free-kick over the bar as the siege was briefly lifted, but there was an agonising outcome with six minutes left when Darragh O'Connor slid in to block a Peter Hopkins shot from the right side of the box, only to see it strike his body and loop into the far corner of Corey Chambers' net.
It was the second sickening late 2-1 loss in successive weeks, although not quite in the same ballpark as Drogheda United's injury-time winner seven days earlier.
With Seán Callan suspended after his dismissal in that game, there was just one change to the starting eleven as Thomas Croke came in at right-back and captain Owen McCormack moved into the middle to partner O'Connor.
There was a lot of interest from a local point of view in the return of Enniscorthy's Aaron Dobbs to Ferrycarrig Park wearing the Longford colours, but the centre-forward unfortunately pulled up with an early leg injury and only lasted ten minutes.
Danny Furlong had given a taste of what was to come beforehand, having a shot saved by Lee Steacy before volleying the rebound right and wide.
However, Longford had also fashioned one good opening, with Shane Elworthy exchanging passes with Peter Hopkins before shaving the top of Corey Chambers' crossbar.
A feature of the night was the unselfish, lively play of Jack Doherty who was always looking to link up with Danny Furlong, and he made a real nuisance of himself throughout.
And there was an early reward for that productivity, as he slid a lovely pass to his right for the Rosslare Strand man to hammer home his first-ever Wexford F.C. goal in the 17th minute, bringing back fond memories of his prolific scoring rate with the old Youths outfit.
That team had a far superior record against Longford than the current side - formed in 2017 - who were seeking a first league win after six previous losses plus one draw.
And they maintained that 1-0 lead to the break with a relative degree of comfort, apart from one scare in the 30th minute when substitute Adam Evans, the replacement for Dobbs and a man who often tormented Wexford when wearing a Shelbourne jersey, headed straight at Corey Chambers from close range after a Sam Verdon delivery.
A cross-shot by Emmet Nugent just cleared the back post, and Wexford had one golden opportunity to go 2-0 clear in the 45th minute.
Once again Doherty played in Furlong, but this time he had to take the shot with his left boot and it flew wide.
That bad luck re-surfaced five minutes into the second-half when Ryan Nolan floated a deep free-kick to the far post where Darragh O'Connor headed firmly to the net, but the linesman's flag brought a swift end to the celebrations.
Owen McCormack then collected the first booking of the game, but the free-kick only led to a weak header by Mick McDonnell that was no trouble to Chambers.
The first of just two Wexford corners (Longford had five) was put into a dangerous area by Ryan Nolan in the 54th minute, with a visiting defender somehow hoofing it over his crossbar as he faced his own goal.
That second flag kick was over-hit by Danny Furlong, while Darragh O'Connor was yellow carded for kicking the ball away after the play went dead before Longford hit the woodwork.
It came in the 58th minute when a cross by Conor Kenna was headed on to the post by Sam Verdon, but Wexford reacted well by creating two half-chances.
Good pressure exerted by Doherty and Furlong forced Lee Steacy into a hurried clearance, but Ryan Nolan didn't get hold of his snapshot from distance, while Paddy Cahill then shot over the bar from a Doherty pass.
Longford's four second-half corners were all earned between the 64th and 72nd minutes as they piled on the pressure, with the second arriving after Chambers made a good save from an Aodh Dervin drive.
Their persistence eventually led to that leveller from Verdon, and at that stage Wexford fans would have been more than happy to emerge with a share of the spoils.
Ryan Nolan fired low and wide from a Doherty pass before goalscorer Verdon and Shane Elworthy were booked after separate incidents.
Unfortunately, Wexford didn't get what they deserved, as that ball that literally could have gone anywhere after striking Darragh O'Connor ended in the worst possible place, namely the corner of the net.
After a yellow card for Ryan Nolan, Sam Verdon went in search of his second but saw his shot batted away by Corey Chambers in the 88th minute.
The three added minutes started with Thomas Croke hooking the ball high and over from a throw-in.
Chambers joined the attack as Ryan Nolan shaped up to take a free-kick from midfield that was partially cleared. Paddy Cahill floated it back into the box where Darragh O'Connor stretched in an effort to get a vital touch, but he didn't get close enough as a bitterly disappointed Wexford had to deal with a sixth loss from their seven league outings thus far.
Longford now lead Limerick at the top of the table on goal difference and with a game in hand, with both eleven points clear of Galway and Wexford at the basement.
There's no easy outing in this division for the Slaneysiders, and they will be rank outsiders next Friday when they face the Munster men in their Markets Field home at 7.45 p.m.
Wexford F.C.: Corey Chambers; Thomas Croke, Owen McCormack (capt.), Darragh O'Connor, Lee Costello; Danny Doyle, Paddy Cahill, Ryan Nolan, Emmet Nugent; Jack Doherty; Danny Furlong. Subs. (not used) - Colum Feeney, Seán Kelly, Nika Arevadze, Seán Roche, Andrew Farrell, Torik Adegoke.
Longford Town: Lee Steacy; Shane Elworthy, Mick McDonnell, Conor Kenna, Anto Breslin; Dean Zambra (capt.), Aodh Dervin, Sam Verdon; Peter Hopkins, Aaron Dobbs, Dean Byrne. Subs. - Adam Evans for Dobbs, inj. (10), Seán Brennan for Byrne (70), also Uli Keller, Jamie Doyle, Paul O'Conor, Karl Chambers, Joe Manley.
Referee: David Keeler (Cork).