Tuesday 26 March 2019

Drogheda pile on the misery

Drogheda United 2 Wexford F.C. 0

Danny Doyle of Wexford F.C. battling for the ball with Drogheda United’s Luke Gallagher
Danny Doyle of Wexford F.C. battling for the ball with Drogheda United’s Luke Gallagher

Alan Aherne

The Wexford F.C. fan sitting in front of the press box during the 7-0 win against Athlone Town got it spot on when he loudly declared to all and sundry to 'enjoy this while it lasts'.

That demolition job took place on April 20, and in the month that has followed the Ferrycarrig Park crew have lost all five SSE Airtricity First Division encounters, only scoring twice (both away to U.C.D.) while conceding 16 goals in the process.

Yes indeed, it's helpful to have a good sense of humour while watching this team on a regular basis, because it's about the only thing guaranteed to keep the spirits up.

The latest defeat came on the road in United Park on Friday when a goal in either half guided Drogheda to a 2-0 success to keep them in the shake-up for promotion.

Wexford were competitive for long spells and did create a few decent chances, but ultimately they failed to beat netminder Paul Skinner and their losing streak shows no sign of abating.

The grand total of five changes in personnel, some injury-enforced, were made from the 2-0 home loss to Longford Town one week earlier, and the major plus was the first appearance of the season in game number 13 for Blackwater's Conor Sutton.

After a frustratingly lengthy lay-off, he was fit to start and operated directly in front of the back four in a 4-1-4-1 formation, with Shane Barnes ploughing a lone furrow up front.

John Morgan, Danny Doyle, Dean Kelly and Dean George also came into the first eleven, with A.J. Lehane, Seán Hurley, Mikey Byrne, Ryan Nolan and Mark Slater replaced from the Longford game.

From the start most Wexford attacks arose from breakaways after Drogheda moves broke down, with the locals bossing possession as one would expect on their own patch.

The sides had a fruitless corner apiece, with Dean Kelly unable to beat the first defender at the near post, before Shane Barnes produced the opening shot from distance in the 16th minute, gathered safely at the second attempt by Paul Skinner.

Another Wexford corner on their next attack wasn't cleared, with Kelly whipping in a second delivery that Thomas Croke headed over the bar.

John Morgan also sent one in, from the right this time, in the 22nd minute, but Mark Doyle averted the danger with a relieving header.

Drogheda captain Jake Hyland had to leave the fray with a nasty-looking swelling under his left eye early in the second quarter after Danny Doyle mis-timed his jump in a tussle in the air and collected a yellow card in the process.

The visitors hadn't threatened at all in the final third up to that point, but they almost gained the lead in cruel fashion in the 27th minute when a Chris Lyons shot took a wicked deflection off Thomas Croke with Kealan Gaffney wrong-footed on the goal-line.

Thankfully the ball went to the right of the post for a corner, with Seán Brennan's delivery headed wide by centre-half Ciarán Kelly.

Brennan wasn't too far off the mark from a free-kick slightly to the left of the area, although he picked up a booking for dissent not too long afterwards.

In between, Thomas Croke hooked a super first-time ball towards the right flank for Danny Doyle, but there was nobody on the end of the Under-19 player's enticing cross into the box.

A third Drogheda corner of the half was eventually cleared before Wexford F.C. old boy Lee Duffy was correctly booked for a theatrical dive in the box that incensed visiting captain Ross Kenny.

Alas, Wexford couldn't hold out until half-time, with the opening goal conceded in the 41st minute.

Seán Brennan played the ball out to the right towards Duffy who hit it first-time when it bounced invitingly in front of him.

Perhaps Kealan Gaffney wasn't expecting the strike to come so early, because it pinged off his body and into the path of centre-forward Chris Lyons who had the fairly straightforward task of tapping the rebound home from close range.

That's how it remained at the break, although Wexford did have a very good chance to equalise in the 44th minute when Drogheda's Colm Deasy was caught in possession and Thomas Croke drove a low shot narrowly wide past the left-hand post.

Wexford had a lot of possession in the first ten minutes on the re-start, forcing four corners from a second-half total of five but failing to trouble the Drogheda goalkeeper.

They were also unfortunate to lose Shane Barnes with a head wound after he crashed into an advertising hoarding in a race for possession, with his place taken by ex-Waterford youngster Owen Wall whose season has been restricted by injury.

Lee Duffy had luck on his side in the 57th minute when referee David Dunne chose to ignore another unaided tumble to the ground on his behalf, although John Morgan clearly wasn't impressed.

The home side came close to doubling their lead on a couple of occasions, with Ross Kenny getting his head to a Conor Kane cross just before Chris Lyons did likewise, and Owen McCormack then blocking a shot from Mark Doyle in his six-yard box.

Kealan Gaffney wasn't troubled by a long-range Seán Brennan effort, and the first of two good openings for Wexford after the break arrived in the 70th minute when Thomas Croke fired over after an initial effort from Dean George was blocked.

Drogheda still needed that second goal to make the game safe, and Lee Duffy showed the better side of his game when he raced past a couple of would-be tacklers before angling a shot on the run slightly too high in the 74th minute.

Ross Kenny was forced off with an injury before Gaffney saved from Duffy at his near post, but the issue was well and truly decided on the next Drogheda attack.

Full-back Conor Kane was tripped by Liam McCartan as he made inroads into the penalty area on the left-hand side, and the experienced Seán Brennan sent the netminder the wrong way from the spot, tucking the ball low and into the left corner for a 2-0 lead.

The last of Wexford's eight corners in all (Drogheda had five) pinged around the box before being cleared, and Brennan almost doubled his tally at the other end when he drove a shot across goal and out for a throw-in from a tight angle.

The visitors did create one gilt-edged chance for a consolation goal at the start of the three extra minutes when Dean Kelly sent in a superbly-weighted free-kick from the right, but Owen McCormack's meaty header flew over the bar.

Substitute Mark Slater collected a late booking for halting Mark Doyle in his tracks before Wexford's fifth loss from six away outings thus far this season was confirmed. Indeed, they haven't won on the road since the opening night in Cabinteely.

Next up is the visit of Finn Harps on Friday at 8 p.m., with the Donegal side currently fourth in the table and looking for a repeat of the 1-0 win they enjoyed when the sides met in Ballybofey on March 23.

Incidentally, Wexford have been drawn away to Premier Division St. Patrick's Athletic in the next round of the Leinster Senior Cup, with the full details of the fixture to be confirmed. That game will be a welcome diversion from this quite dismal second league campaign on the trot.

Wexford F.C.: Kealan Gaffney; Liam McCartan, Owen McCormack, Ross Kenny (capt.), John Morgan; Conor Sutton; Danny Doyle, Dean Kelly, Thomas Croke, Dean George; Shane Barnes. Subs. - Owen Wall for Barnes, inj. (54), Mark Slater for Doyle (76), Seán Kelly for Kenny, inj. (79), also Colum Feeney, Aaron Dobbs.

Drogheda United: Paul Skinner; Colm Deasy, Kevin Farragher, Ciarán Kelly, Conor Kane; Luke Gallagher; Lee Duffy, Seán Brennan, Jake Hyland (capt.), Mark Doyle; Chris Lyons. Subs. - Kealon Dillon for Hyland, inj. (25), Gareth McCaffrey for Lyons (82), William Hondermarck for Brennan (88), also Luka Gratzer, Stephen Meaney, Lloyd Buckley, Victor Ekanem.

Referee: David Dunne (Dublin).

Wexford People

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