Rangers fail to close the gap on North End
North End United 0 Moyne Rangers 0
North End United's four-point cushion ahead of Premier Division title-rivals Moyne Rangers remains after a scoreless stalemate that wasn't short on incident in a sunny Hollygrove last Wednesday evening.
The tension was palpable in the final 20 minutes, with Moyne pressing hard for a winner that would have them breathing on North End's necks at the summit of the table, while United threatened to grab what would surely have been a title-clinching goal on the break.
It had all the ingredients to produce a dramatic finale, and substitute, former Kilmore United man, Paul Murphy, thought he had written his name in lights when he curled a shot past goalkeeper Pa Doyle in the dying moments, but the offside flag cut the celebrations short.
The Sky Blues blazed out of the traps like Mick the Miller, and had a wonderful opportunity to take the lead inside the first two minutes.
A long punt forward from goalkeeper Lee Walker was allowed to bounce by the Moyne defence and Jason Murphy raced clear, but blazed his first-time shot wide of the right post.
Moments later Shane Dempsey showed superb technique to arrow a sumptuous 25-yard shot to the far corner of the net, but unfortunately for the home supporters the ball had struck his hand as he controlled it.
In the 14th minute North End suffered a blow when Dempsey had to make an early exit owing to injury, forcing manager John Godkin to reshuffle his pack, with Paul 'Spot' Murphy retreating into a deeper role, following the introduction of Andy Moore.
Moore thought he had announced himself to the game in style three minutes later when he nodded in at the back post, but the effort was ruled out for offside.
Moyne began to build up a head of steam as the half wore on, with the lively John Peare to the fore, and he warmed Walker's gloves on 22 minutes with a decent strike from distance, but the Enniscorthy men found it difficult to break through a stubborn North End defence and the hosts had the next real sight of goal when John 'Rocky' Fenlon fired over on 42 minutes.
As they had in the first-half, the Wexford town side began the second period full of attacking intent and in the 49th minute Jason Murphy dragged the ball across goal after being played in by Gary Byrne, but the Moyne defence cleared the danger.
The visitors knew a winning goal would put them right back in the title race, with the return fixture to come, and they began to throw caution to the wind, introducing Tomás Mahon on the hour mark to add another attacking dimension.
The substitute had a half-chance to make an almost immediate impact on 64 minutes when Peter Marsden did well to head a Ryan Mahon free into his path, but he took a second to re-adjust his feet and the home defenders were on to him like a flash.
North End's Adam Beary was next to enter the fray, and with the game opening up it was tailor-made for the pacy attacker, with his ability to play off the shoulder of the last defender giving the Moyne rearguard something else to worry about, but despite the odd scare they dealt with the challenge well.
The Enniscorthy outfit continued to throw everything at the league leaders, with John Peare firing a long-range effort wide, while Tomás Mahon was also off target with a difficult chance.
North End continued to look dangerous on the break though, and John Fenlon saw his shot saved after substitute Paul Murphy pulled the ball back into his path, while Adam Beary fired straight at netminder Pa Doyle.
At the other end, Lee Walker failed to hold a Ryan Mahon delivery in the 89th minute, but the North End defence scrambled the ball clear, and moments later the goalkeeper did well to tip over a dangerous ball in by James Peare.
North End briefly thought they had won it, when Andy Moore played in substitute Paul Murphy and he expertly found the back of the net, but the sight of the raised offside flag meant the celebrations were shortlived.
A victory would have been a real fillip, but all is not lost yet for Moyne Rangers, as North End still have to travel to Enniscorthy for the return fixture.
That said, if the Belvedere Road boys can plunder full points from their games with New Ross Celtic, Courtown Hibs and Shamrock Rovers, the title will be theirs.
North END UNITED: Lee Walker, Warren Broaders, Lee Smith, Dale Flynn, Declan Downes, John Fenlon, Kyle Dempsey, Shane Dempsey, Jason Murphy, Paul Murphy, Gary Byrne. Subs. - Andy Moore for S. Dempsey, inj. (13), Adam Beary for K. Dempsey (66), Paul Murphy for J. Murphy (73), also Stuart Lawlor.
Moyne RANGERS: Pa Doyle, Rory O'Connor, Seán Burke, Pa O'Shea, Richard Farrell, Ryan Mahon, John Peare, Seán Kenny, Peter Marsden, James Peare, Alan Tobin. Subs. - Tomás Mahon for Kenny (60), Peter O'Rourke for Tobin (75), also Diarmuid Cullen, Pa O'Rourke, Brian Ronan.
Referee: Derek Campion.