Six goals shared with Bohs
Precious first point for Youths after leading three times
Wexford Youths claimed a precious first point in the SSE Airtricity Premier Division when they shared the spoils with Bohemians in a six-goal thriller watched by 1,336 supporters in Dalymount Park, the spiritual home of Irish football, on Friday.
Bohemians 3 Wexford Youths 3
And while there will be relief at garnering a positive result at the fourth attempt, no doubt that will be tempered with some sense of regret after leading on three occasions, only to concede a goal each time.
Manager Shane Keegan reverted to the starting eleven for the previous Friday's away clash with Shamrock Rovers after making wholesale changes for the game against Dundalk earlier in the week.
And once again Youths more than held their own although, in an odd sense, they probably played better overall in their three defeats thus far. And while they fully deserved this draw, and were only denied a victory via a late penalty, some very slack defending will need to be addressed before Saturday evening's visit of Derry City who have bounced back from the opening night derby defeat to Finn Harps with three impressive straight wins.
Paul Murphy headed the first of two corners to Bohs before the break clear inside the first minute, and he was also on hand to avert the danger from a Lorcan Fitzgerald free-kick as Youths absorbed some early pressure.
Murphy was a central figure throughout once again, posing a huge threat with his quality range of passing and strength on the ball. And after his free-kick in the seventh minute was headed to safety, the ex-North End United striker was the instigator of the first Youths goal.
He latched on to a poor pass in the Bohs defence and was taken down by netminder Dean Delany as he jinked past him for a stonewall penalty. Referee James McKell agreed, showing the number one a yellow card before Danny Furlong stepped up in the ninth minute and calmly sent Delany the wrong way from the spot to open his league scoring account for the season after hitting a spectacular record-breaking 30 First Division goals in 2015.
However, there was an unfortunate carbon copy of the Dundalk game four nights earlier as the lead was shortlived. Indeed, just two minutes had elapsed before the talented Aymen Ben Mohammed twisted and turned down the left flank and, when a cross was whipped in, it seemed to take a slight touch off Lee Grace's head before Mark Quigley directed it clinically past Graham Doyle from close range.
Only a superb Craig McCabe tackle on Quigley, after a Paddy Kavanagh cross, prevented Bohs from taking the lead, while Gary Delaney made an important block after another threatening run from Mohammed who was making his first start of the campaign and is clearly already a crowd favourite.
The entertaining, open nature of the contest showed no signs of abating, with Youths hitting the front once more in the 20th minute. Craig McCabe's long throw is a potent weapon that many defences are going to struggle to deal with this season, and by game's end he was public enemy number one among home fans who felt he was stealing a yard or two every time.
And when he found Gary Delaney with his back to goal from the left, the centre-half's assist located Chris Kenny in the perfect position to nod the ball home and make it 2-1. The Enniscorthy midfielder had popped up regularly in the box against Longford and was unlucky not to score on that occasion, but he was fully rewarded for his attacking instincts this time around.
Another sloppy Bohs pass, from Derek Prendergast, increased the ire of their supporters even though Paul Murphy didn't make the most of it, and the locals really should have equalised in the 21st minute.
Kurtis Byrne had registered an early contender for goal of the season in the 1-0 home win against Sligo Rovers, but he hooked a much easier effort to the left and wide after good work by Paddy Kavanagh and Mark Quigley.
Youths pressed again as netminder Dean Delany gathered a Ryan Delaney cross before a Paul Murphy free-kick was headed clear. Yet another poor pass by Derek Prendergast saw Danny Furlong chase down the goalie who showed his annoyance by booting the ball into the crowd, but another Craig McCabe exocet was dealt with by Bohs.
Furlong snatched at a shot and sent it wide from a Murphy through ball, with the good spell continuing as Murphy won a corner but saw his effort cleared.
Mark Quigley was yellow-carded for a foul on Jonny Bonner whose free-kick posed no threat to Delany, with Lee Grace also booked for his eagerness to stick up for his team-mate. Another Bonner free-kick, conceded after one stray pass too many at the back, went wide on the near post before Bohs central defender Derek Prendergast was replaced by Dan Byrne.
Roberto Lopes collected a yellow card before a low shot by Danny Furlong after Chris Kenny headed the ball into his path was well saved by Delany.
Paul Murphy again cleared the second Bohs corner of the half before Aymen Ben Mohammed cut in from the left but missed the target.
However, the psychological boost of being a goal up at the break eluded Youths, although it took a sweet strike to draw Bohs level for the second time. A Dean Delany free-kick was only partially cleared, with the ball breaking to the right of the box for winger Paddy Kavanagh whose 25-yard rocket was heading for the far corner from the second it left his boot.
Gary Delaney was booked before the interval, but he would prove the most influential Youths player on the re-start at both ends of the field.
An early Jonny Bonner corner was cleared before Aymen Ben Mohammed's trickery forced Lee Grace into a foul, with Ryan Delaney dealing calmly with the free-kick.
Gary Delaney headed over the bar from a Bonner free-kick before Craig McCabe was yellow-carded for a rash challenge on Aymen Ben Mohammed, now performing right beside the most partisan Bohs supporters and warming to the task as they roared constant encouragement.
Gary Delaney dealt with that free-kick before Danny Furlong shot tamely wide under heavy pressure. A couple of Paul Murphy corners met with sound defending before Gary Delaney made two important interventions in quick succession at the other end.
Fortunately Kurtis Byrne was offside after a memorable piece of skill from Aymen Ben Mohammed, before Gary Delaney recovered after some brief hesistancy and Graham Doyle then gathered a Derek Pender cross.
Danny Ledwith came in for Eric Molloy in the 63rd minute as Youths came under increasing pressure, with Doyle saving from Byrne who was offside at any rate before the home side wasted a corner.
Ledwith wasn't too far away from squeezing in a near post free-kick after Paul Murphy was fouled in the 69th minute, and he also had a shot saved after a fine crossfield pass from Murphy.
Murphy and Gary Delaney both averted danger after another Bohs corner, before Youths regained the lead in the 80th minute from a familiar source.
A Craig McCabe throw from the left caused consternation and, when Chris Kenny hooked the ball into the air in the box, Gary Delaney's persistence paid off. He had two attempts at guiding it past netminder Dean Delany, and significantly he didn't foul the goalkeeper in the process as referee James McKell pointed to the centre circle and Youths celebrated once more.
Danny Furlong forced Delany into a decent save before Aymen Ben Mohammed was booked for a tackle on goalscorer Gary Delaney, with Craig Wall replacing Jonny Bonner before disaster struck.
Danny Ledwith popped up in the right-back position and, as he drew his boot to make a clearance, he was blind-sided by Roberto Lopes and took him down. Again it was a cast-iron penalty and Graham Doyle came agonisingly close to keeping it out.
He guessed correctly for Mark Quigley's spot-kick, diving to his right and getting a hand on the ball which took it on to the woodwork, but it ricocheted into the net and Bohs were level again.
Neither side manufactured another clearcut chance, with an Aidan Friel cross gathered by the netminder before Danny Ledwith nearly managed to locate Danny Furlong's head with a cross, only for a defender to get in the way.
Ryan Delaney put an Aymen Ben Mohammed cross out for a fruitless corner, while Derek Pender had a shot blocked before Dan Byrne followed up with a wayward effort to the right and wide.
Graham Doyle was off his line quickly to cut out a through ball and, although Danny Furlong weaved his way into the box at the death, he conceded a free while stretching and the final whistle followed seconds later.
Wexford Youths: Graham Doyle (capt.); Craig McCabe, Gary Delaney, Lee Grace, Ryan Delaney; Aidan Friel, Chris Kenny, Jonny Bonner, Eric Molloy; Danny Furlong, Paul Murphy. Subs. - Danny Ledwith for Molloy (63), Craig Wall for Bonner (87), Stephen Last for Kenny (90+2), also Andy Mulligan, John Peare, Conor English, Matt Connor.
Bohemians: Dean Delany; Derek Pender (capt.), Derek Prendergast, Anto Murphy, Lorcan Fitzgerald; Paddy Kavanagh, Dave Mulcahy, Roberto Lopes, Aymen Ben Mohammed; Mark Quigley, Kurtis Byrne. Subs. - Dan Byrne for Prendergast (35), Jake Kelly for Kavanagh (78), Adam Evans for Mohammed (90+1), also Lee Steacy, Keith Buckley, Dylan Hayes, James Kavanagh.
Referee: James McKell (Tipperary).