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Monday 14 October 2019

Second draw on the road

SSE Airtricity First Division: Cobh Ramblers 1 Wexford FC 1

Danny Furlong, seen here in action against Galway United, scored his sixth goal of the season
Danny Furlong, seen here in action against Galway United, scored his sixth goal of the season

Alan Aherne in St. Colman's Park

The Wexford F.C. wait for a first point on the road since April 12 ended in sunny St. Colman's Park on Saturday when the team fought back from a 1-0 deficit after 27 minutes to record a merited draw with Cobh Ramblers.

Indeed, on the overall balance of play, the visitors were most unfortunate not to come away with a first away win of the season, but the general display will certainly be a boost as they head into the last six matches of this difficult campaign.

They had fallen behind early in the second quarter when a long ball over the top was chased down by striker Cian Leonard who got the vital touch to nick it beyond the fast-advancing Jason McGuire and into the right corner of the net.

However, Wexford only had to wait twelve minutes before grabbing an equaliser, and it came from a typical piece of opportunism from the wily Danny Furlong.

Centre-half Darragh O'Connor delivered a long ball down the left channel and, while Cobh's Charlie Lyons got to it first, Furlong gambled that his backpass mightn't be up to scratch.

And he was rewarded for maintaining his run as the defender didn't get a strong touch on the ball intended for netminder Paul Hunt, leaving the attacker to gather possession and slot a low shot to the far corner of the net.

The goal brought Furlong level with the now-departed Jack Doherty as top scorer this season thus far on a round half-dozen, and there's surely a few more in him before the season is over.

Wexford were bright and breezy in the second-half and really went for it rather than sitting back and settling for a draw, and they will look back with regret in particular on three missed chances in quick succession between the 62nd and 64th minutes.

The first arose out of nothing, as midfielder Shane Griffin squirmed away from two would-be challengers before unleashing a long-range shot that dipped before striking the crossbar and going over.

It was a fine piece of individual skill from the new arrival on loan from Waterford, and it was followed by an even better opening 90 seconds later.

Full-back Conor Sutton delivered a cross from the right that was poorly defended, with Danny Furlong sneaking in between two defenders but somehow volleying over from close range with the goal at his mercy.

The Ramblers faithful were relieved and rightly so, and the pressure on their goal didn't end there as Thomas Croke also forced Paul Hunt into a save on the next Wexford attack after playing a give and go with Furlong.

There was a bit more stability to the starting line-up on Friday with just two changes, as the unavailable Andrew O'Connor and substitute Emmet Nugent were replaced by Daibhid Corish and Danny Doyle respectively.

It was a first start for Corish in his preferred centre-half role after making his debut off the bench in Athlone in an attacking position, while there was another new name on the squad in Stephen Lawless who has arrived from Newbridge Town in the Leinster Senior League.

Ramblers had romped to a 6-1 win at the same venue in March, but manager Stephen Henderson has left since then to be replaced by Stuart Ashton, while they recently lost their two most promising young players, Jaze Kabia and Denzil Fernandes, to likely champions Shelbourne.

Wexford had to deal with some early pressure when Ian Turner's cross from the right almost got a touch from left winger Cameron Harlson who was an influential figure with his power and pace in the opening half.

Stephen O'Leary got the ball back into the danger zone from the opposite wing, and Darragh O'Connor hacked clear with Cian Leonard looking to finish.

Jason McGuire, preferred between the posts to Corey Chambers for the second game running, showed his worth in the ninth minute when he got a hand to Jamie O'Sullivan's free header at the back post from a Turner corner.

Greg Henry, an All-Ireland Minor football medal winner with Tipperary in 2012, scuffed a shot wide for the home side before Paul Hunt saved comfortably from Thomas Croke's hopeful effort.

Daibhid Corish made a good tackle to keep Cameron Harlson at bay and, as the second-half wore on in particular, his strength in the air became apparent with a series of clearances.

Both sides couldn't capitalise on corners, with Wexford's first arriving after Shane Griffin delivered a dangerous cross from a free-kick.

An Ian Turner set-piece at the other end then broke kindly for Jamie O'Sullivan who volleyed wide, but Cobh took the lead on their next attack as Wexford found themselves in an all-too familiar position.

They might have doubled that advantage immediately when Turner crossed for Stephen O'Leary, but Conor Sutton got to the ball seconds beforehand and it made all the difference.

Jason McGuire had an easy save to make from Cian Leonard's scuffed snapshot, and he also did very well when Cobh sought an immediate response to that equaliser from Danny Furlong.

Ian Turner's deep cross found the head of Stephen O'Leary, but the Ferns netminder was alert to the danger and tipped the ball out for a corner.

The last action of the half saw Shane Griffin send a free-kick to the far post that struck Jamie O'Sullivan and Cian Leonard in quick succession, almost resulting in an own goal but for the reflexes of netminder and captain Paul Hunt.

Wexford introduced Conor English on the right wing for the second-half, and immediately it provided them with an attacking threat in an area that hadn't been there before the break.

Together with Thomas Croke and Danny Furlong, he probed the Ramblers rearguard at every opportunity, and Wexford were unfortunate that this trio's bright play didn't yield at least one more goal.

They threatened as early as the 48th minute, with Hunt saving a Furlong shot with his foot after English and Croke initially combined.

The latter did pick up a yellow card for a cynical foul on Dave Hurley to stop a breakaway when Wexford were caught upfield, but that incident was followed by that trio of quickfire opportunities for the visitors that Ramblers were fortunate to escape.

English showed the defensive side to his game when he put Cameron Harlson off when he tried to finish a cross from Greg Henry, while shots from Shane Griffin and Paddy Cahill didn't trouble the home side.

Cobh had Ben O'Riordan booked for dissent before Daibhid Corish got his head on a Shane Griffin corner, but the ball hit Danny Furlong on the hand and a free was conceded.

English and Griffin created an opening for Ricky Fox in the 79th minute, but the latter's shot was saved by Paul Hunt.

Seán Roche came on to partner Furlong up front, with Cahill dropping back to centre-half in place of Daibhid Corish and Thomas Croke filling the captain's midfield role.

Cobh had more of the play in the closing stages and the Wexford defence was kept on its toes, but no clearcut chances were created and the visitors were good value for their first away draw since the trip to the Markets Field and a similar 1-1 result with Limerick more than three months ago.

It was also the first time this season for the team to gain at least one point from two successive fixtures, coming hot on the heels of the 0-0 stalemate at home to Galway United eight days earlier.

Unfortunately, league leaders Shelbourne are next, and in their Tolka Park stronghold too, so in reality it's asking a lot to expect anything from this game on Friday at 7.45 p.m.

The next home match will be against Bray Wanderers on August 2, with a trip to Derry City for the FAI Cup opener in store one week later.

Wexford F.C.: Jason McGuire; Conor Sutton, Daibhid Corish, Darragh O'Connor, Darryl Walsh; Danny Doyle, Paddy Cahill (capt.), Shane Griffin, Ricky Fox; Thomas Croke, Danny Furlong. Subs. - Conor English for Doyle (HT), Seán Roche for Corish (82), also Corey Chambers, John Peare, Emmet Nugent, Lee Costello, Stephen Lawless.

Cobh Ramblers: Paul Hunt (capt.); Ben O'Riordan, Jamie O'Sullivan, Charlie Lyons, James McSweeney; Ian Turner, Greg Henry, Dave Hurley, Stephen O'Leary, Cameron Harlson; Cian Leonard. Subs. - Bryan Murphy for O'Leary (76), Stephen Christopher for Henry (83), Charlie Fleming for Leonard, inj. (90+2), also Adam Mylod, Matt Lamb, Stephen O'Connor, Michael O'Rourke.

Referee: Adriano Reale (Kildare).

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