Hansberry has goal-den touch
Wexford Youths 1 Peamount United 0
Emma Hansberry's right wing corner, which evaded everyone and nestled in the opposite corner of the net, proved to be the difference as Wexford Youths moved to the summit of the Continental Tyres Women's National League table in Ferrycarrig Park on Saturday.
The Sligo native caressed an inswinger, cutting across the ball with the outside of her right boot, that skipped by Jenny O'Keeffe making a nuisance of herself in the six-yard box and skidded past flat-footed Naoisha McAloon for the only goal of a tight, defence-orientated game.
It was probably a fitting way to decide a match that boasted very few chances in open play. Set-pieces consistently caused mayhem at both ends of the field and Youths were lucky enough to make one of theirs count.
It was a different type of game for Wexford, given that they finally took the lead in the first-half. The onus was more on preventing than creating and, while they rode their luck on several occasions, they were able to claim the clean sheet and the points to leapfrog their Dublin opponents.
In truth, it followed the similar disjointed pattern of other home games this season. A slight tweak to the system saw Becky Cassin play a little higher up the field but the results were similar, with the sides cancelling each other out and both struggling to string a passing move together.
At this stage, at least part of Wexford's problems are self-inflicted. Jess Gleeson, Youths' best defender, has now played five games in the holding role in midfield and the positive results have papered over two problems it's creating.
Gleeson is adept at stepping out of defence and spreading the play accurately wide or through the middle. It has been a staple of this side the last few years and that ball is now gone. Apart from Linda Douglas, the rest of the back four are not comfortable enough with what they are being asked to do, play the ball out of defence, and there is a lot of panic back there.
In her current position Gleeson can't step up and pick a pass, as she is constantly under duress. Instead, more often than not, she is forced to move sideways, often too slowly, and is losing accuracy and possession too easily. Becky Cassin was taken off in this game after 50 minutes but was performing the better of the two.
The saving grace for Wexford was again the form of Claire O'Riordan. Scraps, bare scraps is all the Youths striker had to work with and she was exceptional. Chasing down nothing balls into the channels, hassling, harrying defenders into mistakes, everything good went through the Limerick native.
Youths manager Laura Heffernan told the club website after the game that she thought her side were the better team by far in the first-half, but she might have re-assessed that after watching the video in the last few days. It really was O'Riordan and ten others.
She raced away down the right in the second minute and crossed for Kylie Murphy to feed back to Cassin, but the midfielder sliced her shot harmlessly wide. At the other end Niamh Farrelly missed the target with an effort from the left edge of the area.
O'Riordan robbed Naoisha McAloon when she dithered on the ball in the ninth minute. However, the ball just wouldn't sit right for her and Peamount edged her away from goal. More great workrate from the striker moments later won the corner that gave her side the lead.
Wexford really didn't push on from the goal. Farrelly volleyed over the crossbar from a Megan Lynch free-kick. Then, four minutes later Orlaith Conlon was caught in possession by Eleanor Ryan-Doyle but the Under-19 international could only warm Sophie Lenehan's hands with her shot.
The end-to-end nature of the first quarter continued when O'Riordan again robbed a ball she had no right to win. It bounded to Aoibhín Webb and she fed it back to O'Riordan on the right of goal. Her sharp cross caught Kylie Murphy by surprise and her weak header was easily cleared.
Peamount had a glorious chance to equalise when the ball fell to Ryan-Doyle near the penalty spot from a free-kick in the 22nd minute. With Lenehan off balance, any decent shot would have found the net but she spliced her strike right at the Wexford 'keeper.
Ryan-Doyle missed the target again with 13 minutes to go to the interval when picked out by Lynch's dangerous free before curling another shot over Lenehan's bar from a central spot, 25 yards from goal.
Wexford came out after the break in lively fashion but still struggled to create clearcut chances. Peamount, on the other hand, almost equalised when Lynch's dead-ball caused mayhem in the Youths' area. With legs and bodies flailing, Emma Byrne sent the ball towards goal but the hosts scraped it off the line.
Youths' best spell probably came in the middle 15 minutes of the second-half, just as Peamount started to get a little more adventurous. Murphy saw her shot from distance deflected behind while Gleeson volleyed over at the back post from a corner, but the whistle had already gone for a soft free in the six-yard box.
In the 64th minute an O'Riordan cross from the left was glanced narrowly wide by Kylie Murphy arriving at pace. She then won a free in a great position on the right but Gleeson wasted another free-kick by blasting high into the night sky.
Referee Nicky Boland was way too zealous with the whistle all evening and it was always likely to cause a problem eventually. When he blew for a foul for a clean tackle on the right of goal, Lynch put in the perfect ball that Louise Corrigan powered inches wide with a header.
A Lynch cross from the left with five minutes remaining reached a stretching Ryan-Doyle but she could only direct her shot wide of the near post. Wexford were able to keep the ball away from their own goal for the vast majority of the five minutes of normal time, plus the same that was added for stoppages.
Wexford are, for the first time this season, top of the pile ahead of Peamount and UCD Waves, who play each other next week. Youths will complete the first third of the season next Saturday (5 p.m. kick-off) away to Cork, looking to take another vital three points in the title race.
Wexford Youths: Sophie Lenehan; Linda Douglas, Nicola Sinnott, Orlaith Conlon, Jenny O'Keeffe; Jess Gleeson, Becky Cassin; Aoibhín Webb, Kylie Murphy (capt.), Emma Hansberry; Claire O'Riordan. Subs. - Siobhán Doolan for Cassin (50), Aisling Frawley for Webb (63), Chelsee Snell for Hansberry (77), also Amy Walsh, Amy Wilson, Ally O'Keeffe, Rachel Hutchinson.
Peamount: Naoisha McAloon; Lauryn O'Callaghan, Louise Corrigan (capt.), Chloe Maloney, Vanessa Hullon; Niamh Farrelly, Lucy McCarton; Megan Lynch, Emma Byrne, Claire Kinsella; Eleanor Ryan-Doyle. Subs. - Margaret Doyle for McCarton (59), Jade Reddy for Hullon (78), Niamh Barnes for Kinsella (86), also Lauren Kealy, Rachel Doyle.
Referee: Nicky Boland.