Tuesday 12 December 2017

Furlong's extra-time winner

Dean Goodison

Aidan Friel sizes up his options against his former club. Photograph: Ashley Cahill/AC Sports Images
Aidan Friel sizes up his options against his former club. Photograph: Ashley Cahill/AC Sports Images
Conor English holds off a challenge from Jack Tuite during the away win over Athlone Town. Photograph: Ashley Cahill/AC Sports Images
Stephen Last heads clear under pressure from Kevin Farragher, on his successful return to the venue where he sustained a serious knee injury last July. Photograph: Ashley Cahill/AC Sports Images

Danny Furlong came off the bench in extra-time to nod Wexford Youths into the Leinster Senior Cup quarter-finals at the expense of Athlone Town in Lissywollen on Monday of last week.

Wexford Youths 2 Athlone Town (AET)

The hosts should know Furlong pretty well at this stage, given the sides' nine meetings in the past three years. Still, that didn't stop the Youths attacker working a yard of space from his marker in the six-yard box and getting just a strong enough connection to Conor English's right-wing corner to bounce it past Evan Moran in the Town goal.

Athlone never looked like replying again, after earlier hitting back with a last-minute equaliser to force the additional period. Indeed, had Furlong not been incorrectly flagged for offside in the last minute when clean through on goal, Youths may well have added a third.

Shane Keegan's side reverted back to the 4-2-3-1 format that served them so well last season, with English as the lone frontman. The young striker prospered with the added responsibility and was unlucky not to cap a fine performance with a goal.

It didn't start as well for the visitors as they struggled to hit their stride. Athlone had the better of the first-half and almost took the lead in the seventh minute when Daniel Purdy's shot was deflected into the path of Marco Chindea, but his effort was well saved by the foot of Matthew Connor.

Athlone huffed and puffed but couldn't come any closer in the opening half hour. The best Youths could muster was a long, floated Danny Ledwith free that Moran flapped at, however, no Wexford player was on hand to prosper.

Daryl Power intercepted a clearance and played it wide left to Andy Mulligan who squared for English to test Moran with a low drive in the 35th minute. A minute later at the other end, Emeka Onwubiko flicked up and volleyed David Cassidy's pass to force Connor into a push over the crossbar.

Aidan Friel, who would line out less than 14 hours after the conclusion of this game in the Bob Eustace Shield final for the Air Corps, came on at left-back at the break to face his former club and combined brilliantly with a reinvigorated Mulligan to cause Athlone constant problems.

The hosts' chances in the second-half were limited to three. Purdy flashed over from Cassidy's flick in the 47th minute, while 18 minutes from time Onwubiko volleyed wide under pressure, and with a minute of normal time left Feeney slipped Cassidy through to equalise. Youths otherwise dominated.

Mulligan forced Moran to save, Power missed the target twice in quick succession, then Mulligan curled wide as Youths amped up the pressure. Friel crossed for English to thump narrowly wide from ten yards and the striker went even closer when rattling the post right after Gary Delaney - the only starter against Longford three nights earlier to feature from the off again - just missed connecting with a Friel corner.

The goal eventually came when the impressive Ledwith and John Peare combined in the middle of the field to release Eric Molloy. The Youths substitute, only on the field six minutes, found the gap between 'keeper and post to give his side the lead.

The equaliser was a real kick in the teeth, coming when Youths had not been threatened for a while. Yet, the pattern continued through extra-time with the home side rarely looking like creating a clearcut chance.

When a succession of four corners in a row came to nothing for Youths, Furlong was introduced. He flared an effort over before the interval while English had another attempt saved by Moran. However, when Furlong headed home in the 112th minute there was no way back for Athlone.

Their reward is a home clash in the quarter-final on Monday, April 4, and a chance for quick revenge at Longford Town's expense.

Wexford Youths: Matthew Connor; Conor O'Keeffe, Gary Delaney, Stephen Last (capt.), Paul Brennan; John Peare, Danny Ledwith; Conor Whittle, Daryl Power, Andy Mulligan; Conor English. Subs. - Aidan Friel for Brennan (46), Eric Molloy for Power (78), Danny Furlong for Last, inj. (100), also Jonny Bonner, Ryan Delaney, Graham Doyle.

Athlone Town: Evan Moran; Calvin Douglas, Jack Tuite, Kevin Farragher, Ian Fletcher; Conor Dunne, Val Feeney; Marco Chindea, David Cassidy, Daniel Purdy (capt.); Emeka Onwubiko. Subs. - Alan O'Sullivan for Purdy (80), Daryl Carrigy for Dunne, inj. (96), also Daniel Molloy, Adam Kelly, Ross Purdy, Cian Dunne, Seán Nolan.

Referee: John McLoughlin (Kildare).

Wexford People

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