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Monday 10 December 2018

Loss to UCD the final straw as manager Locke leaves Wexford 'by mutual consent'

Soccer, SSE Airtricity First Division Series 20: Wexford FC 0 - UCD 3

Mark Slater of Wexford F.C. on the ball as Greg Sloggett (U.C.D.) closes him down
Mark Slater of Wexford F.C. on the ball as Greg Sloggett (U.C.D.) closes him down

Alan Aherne in Ferrycarrig Park

It was another grim evening in Ferrycarrig Park on Friday, with a weak Wexford F.C. outfit played off the park by table-toppers U.C.D. who had the three SSE Airtricity First Division points wrapped up by half-time.

And it finally prompted decisive action by the club committee, as under-achieving manager Damian Locke was relieved of his duties 'by mutual consent' the next day.

The only criticism I would have of the move is that it took so long to be made. In reality, a change was required at the end of last season, and it defied belief when the backroom structure was kept intact despite home defeats of 8-1 and 8-0 to Drogheda United and U.C.D. respectively earlier in this campaign.

With seven league games left, plus a home cup tie against Bohemians on August 10, it would appear that the committee members have written off this season entirely given that team preparation will be carried out by some of the existing coaching staff until a replacement boss is selected.

There needs to be a complete break from the personnel involved since the start of 2017 if there is to be any hope of progress, because the club is crying out for a fresh start.

It was more of the same in this game, and it was no consolation that the students' winning margin was five goals short of matching their tally when they last visited the ground in May.

It may have taken them until the 39th minute to score, but they quickly added a second in a half with a corner count of 5-0 in their favour (it ended 9-1) and the damning fact that Wexford didn't even have one shot on goal from open play before the break.

Only the competent netminding of Corey Chambers kept out the visitors in the early stages. He turned a header around the post for an eighth-minute corner after a dangerous Gary O'Neill free-kick, before saving a penalty from the same player.

That arrived in the 13th minute after a needless trip on Neil Farrugia in a crowded box, with Chambers doing very well for a big man to get down low to his right and deny the U.C.D. captain.

The netminder foiled Kevin Coffey before making an easy save from play-maker Daire O'Connor, and his counterpart, Conor Kearns, was called upon for the only time before the break when John Morgan could only direct a free-kick into his welcoming arms in the 23rd minute.

Chambers was seen at his very best on the next U.C.D. attack when Coffey headed an O'Connor delivery into the path of Yoyo Mahdy whose hooked effort was destined for the net until the number one's intervention.

O'Connor, Farrugia and Coffey all missed chances before the long-anticipated breakthrough finally arrived in the 39th minute.

Farrugia got to the byline to the left of goal and pulled the ball back for O'Connor who fired it high to the roof of the net via the underside of the woodwork.

And U.C.D. doubled their lead just two minutes later when a Gary O'Neill free-kick on the left was headed home by Farrugia.

Coffey shot wide on the re-start before Mark Slater took the wrong option with a weak attempt when captain Mikey Byrne had made a driving run into a dangerous position.

And U.C.D. made it three in the 53rd minute when a Liam Scales ball into the box found Farrugia who rolled it back into the path of Gary O'Neill, with the midfielder finding the net with ease.

Aaron O'Connor fired directly over the bar from the kick-off, while the sole Wexford corner arrived in the 55th minute after Mark Slater robbed Liam Scales and combined with O'Connor. John Morgan's set-piece went wide at the far post, and the home side didn't threaten again for almost half an hour.

Yoyo Mahdy had the ball in the net from a Neil Farrugia pass in the 62nd minute, but it was ruled out for offside.

Wexford gave league debuts off the bench to Under-19 duo Adham Masood and Craig O'Reilly whose first Senior appearances had arrived four nights earlier in the Leinster Senior Cup.

Masood replaced fellow teen Vinny Quinlan who featured for the first time with the new club at adult level, although he made three appearances with Wexford Youths as a 17-year-old in the 2016 Premier Division campaign. The Gorey lad was one of three changes from the league win in Cabinteely, with Mark Slater and Aaron O'Connor also included while injuries kept Aaron Dobbs, Ryan Nolan and Dean Kelly out of a threadbare squad, with just four players from an allowed seven on the bench.

U.C.D. goalkeeper Conor Kearns finally had something to do in the 78th minute when O'Connor found Dean George whose left-footed shot forced him into a decent save.

Masood drove an effort right and wide but impressed home fans seeing him for the first time at this level in the process, although a second effort shortly afterwards wasn't nearly as menacing.

Danny Doyle had a long-range shot saved, and John Morgan fired over from a free-kick, but this was a game best forgotten - the regular pattern this season.

Whether or not the players get an immediate lift from the committee's decision to part company with Damian Locke will be seen in City Calling Stadium on the Strokestown Road on Saturday (7.45 p.m.) when Carl Grehan takes charge for the last clash of the season with Longford Town.

Wexford F.C.: Corey Chambers; Conor Sutton, Owen McCormack, Seán Kelly, John Morgan; Aaron O'Connor, Mikey Byrne (capt.); Mark Slater, Vinny Quinlan, Dean George; Danny Doyle. Subs. - Adham Masood for Quinlan (65), Craig O'Reilly for Slater (72), also Colum Feeney, Ross Kenny.

U.C.D.: Conor Kearns; Darragh Corcoran, Josh Collins, Liam Scales, Evan Osam; Kevin Coffey, Greg Sloggett, Gary O'Neill (capt.), Neil Farrugia; Daire O'Connor; Yoyo Mahdy. Subs. - Timmy Molloy for O'Connor (74), Paul Doyle for Farrugia (80), Seán McDonald for Mahdy (86), also Gavin Sheridan, Dan Tobin, Maxim Kouogun, Conor Crowley.

Referee: Alan Patchell (Dublin).

Wexford People