Sunday 18 March 2018

McCurtain saves Youths' blushes


GARETH McCURTAIN with his first goal of the season four minutes from the end gave Wexford Youths full points at the expense of luckless Salthill Devon in this terribly disappointing Division 1 game at Ferrycarrig Park last Friday night.

Wexford Youths are stuck in mid-table while Salthill Devon are struggling to get off the bottom of the table, and this could be seen in the sides respective opening half displays, a half that produced little in the way of quality football, as both sides struggled to raise their game above the mediocre.

Wexford Youths are clearly feeling the effects of player erosion as they struggle even to put the lowly sides away. Forced to start this game without Gary Sheahan (injured) and fellow front man Danny Furlong (dropped), along with suspended centre-back, Anthony Wolfe, along with keeper Pakie Holden, also suspended, manager Noel O'Connor's squad was really stretched.

Without so many key players it was not surprising that the Wexford Youths side struggled for three points against bottom of the table Salthill, a very mediocre side, and it's not difficult to realise why they are propping up the table all season. But even without so many key players one would have expected a classier performance from the home side, but their struggle was such, that to collect all three points was a real bonus in the end.

Wexford Youths ended with all three points but for Wexford Youths one could sense that the season's end does not come quick enough given the exodus of players from the club. They will now be content to secure a mid-table position which will need at least three more victories from their remaining games to give their season some respectability, for they also failed miserably in cup competitions.

There was little in the way of goalmouth action during the opening exchanges with both sides becoming bogged down in midfield. Neither keeper was troubled during this opening spell and one had to wait until the 15th minute when the visitors centre-back Brian Geraghty was penalised for handball inside the area, with Shane Dempsey neatly tucking away the resulting penalty, a score which one hoped would bring the game to life.

Both sides failed to raise their game and the sparse attendance of 231 was confronted with a dreadful display of football, misplaced passes, lack of quality football, and with the respective front players failing to make any worthwhile impression.

Salthill had not managed a serious attack until the 37th minute when following a neat build-up out of midfield, the ball reached Cian McBrien, who showed an excellent first touch, rounded keeper Pa Doyle to shoot into an unguarded net making it 1-1.

Even this setback did not bring a knee-jerk reaction from the home side, but they should have regained the lead in the 39th minute when Kevin Rowe blazed over the top from a few metres in front of goal when he should have scored.

With the result the sides went in 1-1 at the interval.

One felt the standard of football could not deteriorate any further but that is actually what happened, for the second 45 minutes turned into one long yawn completely devoid of flowing football, with the stop-start nature of the game, seeing both sides struggle to bring any real composure to their game.

So much so that neither keeper was called upon to make a worthwhile save, while the respective back fours were not under any real pressure, as the sides struggled with their midfield play, with the long ball the preferred option.

With the game looking like petering out into a draw, Wexford Youths did manage one late surge, possibly brought about by a double incident. Substitute Danny Furlong brought some life to their front play, while manager Noel O'Connor was dismissed from the dug-out following an exchange of verbals with assistant referee Michelle O'Neill.

Four minutes from the end of what was a dreadful second half, Wexford Youths' Gareth McCurtain forced home the winning goal, after the visitors failed to clear a ball from their area, giving his side all three points, which they hardly deserved.