Poor run continues in Cobh
Soccer, SSE Airtricity First Division Series 16: Cobh Ramblers 2 Wexford FC 1
There was more disappointment for Wexford F.C. on Saturday as they returned from St. Colman's Park without adding further points to their tally in the SSE Airtricity League First Division.
Goals from Darren Murphy and Stephen Christopher ensured the hosts had enough in the bank so that when Dean Kelly pulled one back in the 77th minute they were still able to coast to the finish line intact.
There has been plenty of talk from fans in the stands and on social media about the underlying problems with this Wexford team. The general consensus seems to be that manager Damian Locke's tactics are overly defensive, that his side are unable to express themselves.
However, at least in this game against Cobh Ramblers, defensive tactics were not the problem. Wexford set up in a base 4-2-3-1 but at separate times both sitters looked to join in the attack when the opportunity arose.
That formation can morph into a 4-4-1-1 or even a 4-5-1 pretty easily, depending on the quality of the opposition and the situation, but the system itself isn't as inherently defensive as it might seem and can be a great attacking base if used correctly.
What you'd like to see is the players in the three finding the pockets of space between the lines and building from there. In the first-half Wexford were able to pick up possession in these promising positions, with Danny Doyle a willing runner ahead.
What tended to happen in these instances was that the link-up play in the forward third of the field was diabolical. The passes were over-hit, they were under-hit, and if one did locate the runner, often Doyle, it didn't hit him in stride and he had to curtail the run and the move lost all momentum.
It's very easy to look negative when there is no cohesion in the front third of the field. Of course, you can always throw more men forward but the visitors looked fragile enough defensively playing like this.
The question, on this performance, should be why was Wexford's build-up play around the Cobh penalty area so awkward?
The visitors' football was a stark contrast to that of their opponents, given that these teams were sitting side-by-side in the table, albeit separated by seven points, before kick-off. You'd never figure that they were in such close proximity by what they offered up on the pitch.
Cobh's passing and inter-play was vastly superior to Wexford's, and they didn't need acres of space in the final third. They picked their little passes, played their triangles, and created the vast majority of chances.
Only some tentative finishing let the hosts down. Had they been more confident in front of goal it could have been a much heavier defeat for Locke's men.
Another thing Cobh had that Wexford didn't was Denzil Fernandez. The winger was quietly getting some stick from the home fans as his end product wasn't perfect, but he was always the one looking to stretch the visiting defence and take on players.
Wexford don't have a Fernandez in their squad, but in Under-19 player Adham Masood they do have that type of player in their system, one who won't always do the correct thing but someone capable of changing the game with a piece of brilliance. A call-up for the tricky winger is surely just around the corner.
While they could have done with him in this game, manager Damian Locke did make three changes to his starting line-up.
Corey Chambers was back from the States and back in goal, Ryan Nolan came into midfield, while John Morgan had the chore of defending Fernandez at left-back.
Former Cork City Under-19 winger Fernandez took just three minutes to make his presence felt. He got in on the right, and his cross just evaded Andrew Wall but fell to Anthony McAlavey at the back post, but the former Waterford man volleyed wide from eight yards out.
McAlavey headed at Chambers in the ninth minute and fired over the bar from the edge of the area one minute later after a good pull-back by Fernandez. The winger was provider again in the 15th minute, but David Hurley saw his effort blocked by a defender's foot.
Wexford got their first sighter when Thomas Croke's shot from distance forced Paul Hunt into a diving save.
Danny Doyle tried a bicycle-kick from a Liam McCartan cross in the 21st minute but it was weak and didn't trouble the Cobh 'keeper.
Ramblers almost opened the scoring when Hurley sent McAlavey into the clear, but Chambers batted away his powerful shot. Wall then headed inches wide from a Darren Murphy corner, but the referee had already blown his whistle for an attacking foul in the box.
Wall and Dean George missed the target at either end before Cobh wasted a glorious chance in the 34th minute.
McAlavey sent Fernandez away on the inside right, and he had time and space to think about his finish, but it was a little casual and Chambers made a solid save.
After a quiet end to the first-half, the hosts came roaring out after the break. Both McAlavey and Fernandez had shots saved in the first minute, but their side didn't have to wait long for the breakthrough.
It came when Ryan Nolan threw his hand up at Stephen Christopher's cross with Fernandez attacking it. The referee had no hesitation in pointing to the spot and Darren Murphy coolly dispatched it high past Chambers to the 'keeper's right.
Dean Kelly saw his shot comfortably saved by Hunt as Wexford looked for a quick reply. The visitors were roaring for a penalty when Sená Kelly went down in the box from a corner, but it would have been a soft one had it been given for incidental contact.
Wexford lost their way completely after the hour mark as Cobh bossed the game. Fernandez crossed for Hurley to head over, and then he turned provider for Pierce Phillips arriving late but his shot fizzed just wide.
The second Ramblers goal duly arrived in the 74th minute. Again it was the magic of Fernandez that created the chance. He darted inside and outside three Wexford defenders, slipped a little pass to Christopher, and the Cobh midfielder bludgeoned his shot past Chambers from ten yards out.
Out of nothing Wexford hit back in the 77th minute. Dean George and Ryan Nolan were involved in getting the ball to Danny Doyle, and his shot was blocked but it fell to Kelly on the right of goal.
Kelly was cool and took his time with the shot. It hit the foot of the right post, rolled along the line and was hooked away, with the linesman's flag signalling that the ball had already crossed the paint.
With Wexford going to three at the back and Mark Slater joining Doyle up front, Locke was obviously looking for a big finish. However, Wexford created nothing of note in the final minutes of the match.
Cobh went close when Jaze Kabia forced Chambers into a sharp save with six minutes left, but they played out the last few minutes scare-free to leave Wexford on eight points from 16 games.
Next up is a trip to Dublin today (Tuesday) to face St. Patrick's Athletic in the Leinster Senior Cup, and that's followed by a home game against Galway on Friday evening.
Wexford F.C.: Corey Chambers; Conor Sutton, Owen McCormack, Seán Kelly, John Morgan; Ryan Nolan, Dean Kelly; Liam McCartan, Thomas Croke (capt.), Dean George; Danny Doyle. Subs. - Aaron O'Connor for McCartan (68), Mark Slater for Nolan (80), also Ross Kenny, Kealan Gaffney.
Cobh Ramblers: Paul Hunt (capt.); Kevin Taylor, Ben O'Riordan, Adam O'Sullivan, Pierce Phillips; Darren Murphy; Denzil Fernandez, Stephen Christopher, Anthony McAlavey, David Hurley; Andrew Wall. Subs. - Jaze Kabia for Wall (70), Matthew Lamb for Christopher (86), also Charlie Fleming, James McSweeney, Craig Donnellan, Adam Mylod, Michal Sadys.
Referee: Robert Dowling (Dublin).