Tuesday 23 January 2018

First away win a major boost

Youths hit four in Longford

Alan Aherne

Shane Dunne holds off the challenge of Pat Cregg in Friday's victory against Shamrock Rovers
Shane Dunne holds off the challenge of Pat Cregg in Friday's victory against Shamrock Rovers

The best week since Wexford Youths' rise to the SSE Airtricity Premier Division started on a high before a paltry 294 spectators in City Calling Stadium on Tuesday when they recovered from the concession of an early goal to defeat Longford Town, chalking up a first away victory of the season in the process.

Longford Town 2 Wexford Youths 4

Youths have more than made up for the 2-0 home loss to the same opponents on the first night of the season at this juncture, as they also eliminated them from the Leinster Senior Cup at the quarter-final stage prior to this convincing win.

The result heaped pressure on Town manager Tony Cousins as his side hasn't won another game since that Ferrycarrig Park opener.

The home crowd may have been small but they made their displeasure known in no uncertain terms at the final whistle, although Friday's 3-3 draw away to St. Patrick's Athletic may have appeased them somewhat.

Youths had to show character to win this one, as they found themselves a goal down inside six minutes.

Town captain Conor Powell pumped a long ball over the top and the only debate was centred on whose slight touch nicked it past Graham Doyle - centre-forward David O'Sullivan or Youths defender Ryan Delaney.

The stadium announcer initially called it as an own goal but later credited it to O'Sullivan, and it looked like one that only the 'Soccer Republic' camera could resolve with any degree of certainty.

Happily, Youths didn't have to wait long for an equaliser as it arrived in the 13th minute.

Midfielder Jonny Bonner was at the heart of most of their good work all evening, and the former Derry City and Finn Harps man whipped in a cross from the left after a foul on Aidan Friel.

Gary Delaney beat netminder Ian Molloy - standing in for the injured Paul Skinner - in the air without incurring the wrath of referee James McKell, and his centre-half partner, Ryan Delaney, was on hand to bundle the ball over the line with his chest from very close range.

There was nothing pretty about the goal, but they all count as the old saying goes.

And seven minutes later Youths took the lead, after Town had earned the game's first corner and David O'Sullivan headed wide from Kealan Dillon's delivery.

The visitors were playing into a strong wind which made conditions difficult and led to more 'up and under' football than normal, but they fashioned that second goal after good work initially at the back by Gary Delaney who headed clear twice in quick succession.

A Paul Murphy cross from the right was met by Danny Furlong whose header was well saved by Ian Molloy at the expense of a corner.

Jonny Bonner took the setpiece, and it was a comedy of errors from Town's point of view as the ball glanced off Conor Powell before hitting one of his colleagues on the far post, sitting up perfectly for Chris Kenny to force it home with his shin.

Again, it was far from a candidate for goal of the month, but all that mattered was that the Town's defences had been breached once more.

Two nearly became three in the 29th minute when Craig McCabe took the second of two throws in quick succession and settled for a short one to Jonny Bonner.

The goalkeeper fisted clear, but when the ball was returned a Danny Furlong knock-on found Paul Murphy who headed wide.

The second Youths corner, from Aidan Friel, was dealt with by Longford before a Ryan Delaney header from an Eric Molloy cross was comfortably saved.

Kevin O'Connor entered the notebook but Bonner's free-kick was cleared, with Graham Doyle then dealing with a long-range hit and hope effort from Conor Powell. Two more Longford attacks before the break were defended by the unrelated Delaneys, Ryan and Gary, leaving Youths with a 2-1 interval lead.

They were ideally placed to push on for that first away win, and it duly arrived. Graham Doyle palmed away a Kealan Dillon free-kick before the sole Town corner of the second-half was cleared by Gary Delaney.

Doyle got another vital touch to divert a dangerous Dillon cross away from the danger zone, with Youths absorbing some early pressure.

Jonny Bonner released Chris Kenny whose cross found Danny Furlong, but the striker's shot off his left didn't trouble Ian Molloy before the breakthrough came.

Those first two Youths goals may have lacked quality, but the third was in a different league altogether.

It was a fine team goal in the 54th minute, with the ball gradually moved from right to left as Paul Murphy, Eric Molloy and Danny Furlong all featured in the build-up.

However, the man who unlocked the Town defence with a sweet pass over the top was Jonny Bonner, and left winger Andy Mulligan ran on to it before sliding his low shot past Ian Molloy for a 3-1 lead.

Furlong headed a Bonner cross to the near post wide as Youths looked to capitalise further, while Graham Doyle saved easily from a weak Tristan Noack-Hofmann header after Paul Murphy was booked and conceded a free-kick.

The sole Youths corner of the half was achieved at a cost as Danny Furlong retired with a twinge after leaving Pat Flynn for dead on the left flank.

Shane Dunne came on in midfield with Murphy left to soldier again up front, but the visitors weren't quite there yet in terms of collecting the three points.

Town substitute John McKeown fired over the six-man wall and the crossbar from a free-kick just outside the box before they pulled a goal back in the 72nd minute.

David O'Sullivan drilled in a cross from the right and the two Delaneys stretched to get to it with their backs to goal.

It eluded Ryan but unfortunately got a strong touch from Gary, and that was enough to direct it into the corner of the net out of Graham Doyle's reach.

Shane Dunne (twice) and Paul Murphy couldn't make the most of half chances while Graham Doyle saved from Pat Flynn before a route one approach produced the clinching goal in the 85th minute.

Doyle launched a wind-aided kick-out straight down the middle, and Murphy was in the clear when the last defender misjudged its flight.

He tried to place his shot but it came back off the post, and his composure was admirable as he steadied himself before tucking the rebound past the netminder and a rapidly-retreating back.

There was no coming back from that one for Town, with the on-form Murphy heading wide with the game's last chance before the final whistle provided sweet music to the visiting team's ears.

Securing full points against the lower-ranked teams will be a vital component of Youths' bid to remain in the Premier Division, making this a most important win.

While Cup fare takes over this week, their next league tie is a daunting trip to runaway leaders and holders Dundalk on May 29.

Wexford Youths: Graham Doyle (capt.); Craig McCabe, Gary Delaney, Ryan Delaney, Aidan Friel; Eric Molloy, Jonny Bonner, Chris Kenny, Andy Mulligan; Paul Murphy, Danny Furlong. Subs. - Shane Dunne for Furlong, inj. (68), Conor Whittle for Mulligan (90), Conor O'Keeffe for Molloy (90+2), also John Peare, Matt Connor, Danny Ledwith, Stephen Last.

Longford Town: Ian Molloy; Mark Hughes, Pat Flynn, Tristan Noack-Hofmann, Conor Powell (capt.); Don Cowan, Philip Gannon, Kealan Dillon, Kevin O'Connor; Josh O'Hanlon, David O'Sullivan. Subs. - Kaleem Simon for Cowan (57), John McKeown for Dillon (68), also Jamie Mulhall, Daniel O'Reilly, Mark Rossiter, Karl Chambers, Dylan McGoey.

Referee: James McKell (Tipperary).

Wexford People

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