Friday 17 January 2020

Depleted squad comes up trumps

Soccer, SO Hotels Women's National League: DLR Waves 0 Wexford Youths 3

McKenna Davidson on the move in the win away to DLR Waves on Saturday
McKenna Davidson on the move in the win away to DLR Waves on Saturday

Dean Goodison in Jackson Park

It's going to take a monumental effort in the coming months, but if Wexford Youths do eventually end up as SÓ Hotels Women's National League champions again, this victory will probably be the most important of the season.

Coming off a draw with pretenders Shelbourne, Tom Elmes' side were missing multiple starters due to captain Kylie Murphy's wedding celebrations. Wexford had looked to have the game switched to Wednesday evening, and DLR Waves agreed, but the league didn't.

It meant that just four of this eleven were in the starting line-up seven days earlier, and the same number had started over half of Youths' league games this season. Three were on the field at the beginning of a league game for the first time in 2019.

Had this inexperienced Wexford slipped up in Jackson Park on Saturday, the destination of the title was already out of their own hands.

This was just the eighth league game of the season but it can get late early when you are leaking points in a title race.

So Wexford needed something special and this side produced it. They had to get eleven performances, not eight, not nine, as everyone had to stand up and be counted. Every one of these players took their chance to shine.

Not only did they play with guts, they also played some excellent football. There was a balance in the side, a laid-back freedom in their play. There was also massive enjoyment in what they were doing; these players were in it together and it showed.

Look at the back line, where Doireann Fahey is now the only Wexford player who has started all eight league games but the other three came into this contest with just two league starts between them. They both belonged to Becky Cassin, who never lets her side down when given a chance.

Clíodhna Ní Shé was solid on the right of the defence but the jaw-dropping performer again was Ciara Delaney. The Kilkenny native has had to bide her time more than most, but while others come and restlessly disappear, she stays around and keeps working hard.

Just like when she was called on in the same fixture at the end of last season, Delaney was outstanding. It's getting to the stage where one has to wonder if she's actually one of the best four defenders Wexford have at their disposal.

There might be a comfort in having Delaney on the bench but she knocks on the door every time she is given a chance.

Of course, the level of opponent is not as high as it might be, but at this stage she looks primed for the step up.

Ahead of her, Blessing Kingsley made her first senior league start and was mightily impressive high on the right in the first-half, left in the second.

Aoife Slattery, Lauren Kelly and McKenna Davidson all had their best games of the season in the middle, with the Hawaiian providing a timely reminder that she's a more natural talent in central positions than on the wing.

The first quarter was almost completely uneventful except for one vital moment. Lauren Kelly whipped in a low ball from the right that skidded off the slick surface and was fumbled by Erica Turner, and Katrina Parrock was on her in a flash and the Wexford winger tapped into the empty net.

As the game settled into a pattern, it was the visitors who did most of the pressing. On the other hand, DLR Waves struggled to get a foothold anywhere, and they resorted to long balls into the channels but there was no joy there either.

The impressive Vanessa Ogbonna tested Turner from distance in the 23rd minute, while Kingsley did the same three minutes later.

Those two were involved again 16 minutes before the break, but Ogbonna's searching pass was just cut out by the Waves defence.

Parrock probably should have worked the 'keeper when she met Kelly's corner unmarked, but her header from eight yards out whizzed over the bar.

A low Ogbonna shot almost caught Turner out at her near post in the 42nd minute, but she just about kept it out.

A few half-time tweaks did Wexford no harm, as within a minute Ogbonna broke away on the left and chipped just over the bar.

A minute later her side won a corner, Fahey swung it in low, and Nadine Clare slice-volleyed it into her own net from eight yards out.

Davidson saw her shot easily held by Turner in the 50th minute, but the 'keeper's grip wasn't as solid two minutes later when Delaney's 50-yard strike spun up off the surface, slipped through her fingers, and into the back of the net for 3-0.

That was pretty much game over at that stage. DLR Waves had their first shot, a Rachel Doyle strike that flew well wide, in the 57th minute.

Kerri Letmon added some oomph on the left when she came off the bench, and her shot was held by Maeve Williams 14 minutes from time.

Ogbonna broke away on the left again in the 78th minute, cut in and forced Turner to save with her feet.

The biggest smile of the afternoon came from back-up goalkeeper Sophie Lenehan when she was introduced as a striker in the 83rd minute.

It was her first appearance since the defeat to Peamount but, to her credit, she has been a constant on the Wexford bench. Youths will need her again at some stage, of that there is little doubt, so it's encouraging to see her getting her head down and plugging away, trying to improve.

She almost got her head to a Kelly corner a couple of minutes after coming on and had a few nice touches, but there was no fairytale goal forthcoming.

Kelly was the last to test Turner with a weak enough free-kick, but the Waves stopper held on to this one as Youths went home happy with their lot.

Wexford jump right back into action on Saturday evening, starting a run of four home games in five weekends leading into the mid-season break.

Cork come to Ferrycarrig Park this week (6.30 p.m. kick-off) before Youths host Limerick in the League Cup semi-final seven days later.

Wexford Youths: Maeve Williams; Clíodhna Ní Shé, Ciara Delaney, Becky Cassin, Doireann Fahey; Aoife Slattery; Katrina Parrock (capt.), Lauren Kelly, McKenna Davidson, Blessing Kingsley; Vanessa Ogbonna. Sub. - Sophie Lenehan for Ogbonna (83).

DLR Waves: Erica Turner (capt.); Jenny O'Keeffe, Róisín McGovern, Bobbi Downer, Katie Burdis; Keelin McEntee, Nadine Clare, Ciara Maher, Sinéad Gaynor, Rachel Doyle; Leanne Payne. Subs. - Kerri Letmon for O'Keeffe (72), Niamh Murphy for Doyle (72), Ashling Spillane for Clare (78), also Michaela Fox-Walsh, Sophie O'Donoghue, Aimee Maher, Ally O'Keeffe.

Referee: David Gallagher (Dublin).

Wexford People

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