Slump continues in Galway
Youths stay second from bottom after sixth loss on trot
Wexford Youths are facing into an absolutely critical weekend after a roller-coaster encounter in Eamonn Deacy Park on Friday ended with Galway United inflicting a sixth successive SSE Airtricity Premier Division defeat on Shane Keegan's newcomers.
Galway United 4 Wexford Youths 2
The visitors took the lead against the run of play with a sweet strike from Shane Dunne, but they could only hold it for three minutes and finished with ten men after Paul Murphy was dismissed on a straight red card early in the final quarter.
Youths had conceded another two goals at that stage and were 3-1 behind. And although substitute Andy Mulligan gave them hope with his fourth of the season, the home side made doubly sure of the three points in added time when the outstanding Vinny Faherty grabbed his second.
It's been an alarming slump for Youths since the high of that 2-0 home win against Shamrock Rovers on May 13. And it means that points are simply a must this coming weekend when they travel to Ballybofey on Friday to face Finn Harps (8 p.m.), before hosting St. Patrick's Athletic in their re-fixed game from series 19 on Monday at the same time.
As it stands, Youths occupy eleventh position and if this remains the case, they will be facing the runners-up in Division 1, most likely either UCD or Drogheda United, in a two-leg do-or-die affair to stay up. Dropping one spot below Longford Town would mean automatic relegation, while the big target now is to make up the four-point gap on Bray Wanderers and escape from the bottom two.
The main news from Ferrycarrig Park during the week was Ryan Delaney's move to Burton Albion, with the talented teenage defender from New Ross completing a dream transfer to the Championship side after impressing in two trial games.
And while everyone was naturally delighted for this promising young player, it did lead to an enforced change at the back as manager Keegan opted for three rather than four again for the second game running.
Indeed, with Gary Delaney also out, serving a one-match suspension after accumulating five yellow cards, it led to a recall for Craig McCabe after missing the Cork City game plus the welcome return of Lee Grace for the first time since sustaining an injury against St. Patrick's Athletic on April 15.
Two notable additions to the list of substitutes were Aidan Keenan, now fully recovered after missing all 18 games up to this point, and Shane Dempsey who returned to the club for another stint during the week from North End United. Both were introduced during the second-half and will certainly add to the options as Keegan seeks to re-discover the winning formula which has eluded his team for most of the season.
The corner count of 9-1 to the home side underlines Galway's overall dominance, with the first headed clear by Paul Murphy in the sixth minute. Youths' sole attempt arrived after a Danny Ledwith free-kick from the left was knocked out of play by Stephen Folan, but Ledwith sent it into the arms of netminder Conor Winn.
That incident occurred in the 16th minute and it was a brief respite for Youths as Galway were on top possession-wise without creating any clearcut chances. However, that changed quickly as the bang on-form Vinny Faherty set up two good openings in quick succession.
First he picked out Conor Melody, making only his second league start of the season, and his powerful drive forced Graham Doyle into a good save at the expense of a corner. One minute later Faherty teed up Paul Sinnott but the midfielder drove his shot high and over the bar.
Youths hadn't threatened in open play up to that point. Chris Kenny did spray one long ball wide right to Aidan Friel but his first touch let him down, while Friel later made an interception but over-hit a through ball to Danny Furlong and netminder Winn raced off his line to avert the danger.
Lee Grace just about dealt with a teasing cross from the left by Stephen Walsh before Youths hit the front against the run of play in the 21st minute.
It came from a familiar source as Craig McCabe sent a long throw from the right into a crowded box, with Chris Kenny and Paul Murphy challenging. When the ball broke out to Shane Dunne he couldn't have hit it any better, guiding a crisp low drive into the far corner of the net for his first league goal of the season.
This should have been the platform for Youths to build something and sow the seeds of doubt among their rivals who hadn't won at home since April and were chasing a first victory since mid-May.
Alas, the lead only lasted two minutes. Ryan Connolly had shot well over after Stephen Last got his head on a Stephen Walsh cross, but disaster then struck when the wily Vinny Faherty delivered a perfect ball from the left and Gary Shanahan calmly side-footed it past Graham Doyle.
It was all Galway for the remainder of the half, and it came as no surprise when they took the lead for the first time in the 38th minute. Prior to that Doyle hadn't been tested from a near-post flick by Faherty and a long-range shot from Conor Melody, while Stephen Last did well to block a Melody effort for a corner which skimmed the head of centre-half Armin Aganovic at the far post and went out for a throw-in.
A speculative Stephen Walsh shot took a deflection en route to Graham Doyle's arms before the home side finally turned their complete dominance into another goal. This time team captain Ryan Connolly sprayed the ball to the left to Conor Melody, and his cross was met by the head of Vinny Faherty who coolly guided it home.
Stephen Last made another vital clearance from a Kevin Devaney delivery before Danny Ledwith fired over the bar from a free-kick to the left after Melody was booked for a foul on Jonny Bonner.
Paul Sinnott headed over from a Faherty cross before Melody nearly made it 3-1 from a delivery via the same source just before the break.
Youths reverted to four at the back on the re-start, with Danny Ledwith moving to left-full, and his early free-kick into the danger zone was headed away by Sinnott.
Shane Dunne didn't test Conor Winn with a weak shot before Youths breathed a collective sigh of relief after Ryan Connolly split the defence wide open with a brilliant slide rule pass into the box. Gary Shanahan knocked the ball under the advancing Graham Doyle, but the 'keeper's body killed some momentum in the shot and Lee Grace was on hand to clear it off the line.
Chris Kenny didn't pay heed to a warning given by referee David McKeon just one minute earlier when he was booked for a foul on Conor Melody, but Paul Murphy dealt with Connolly's free-kick.
Faherty headed another Connolly setpiece over before the latter piled on the misery for Youths with a brilliant individual goal in the 60th minute. After playing the ball in behind Craig McCabe, he backed himself in a sprint against the full-back and won the race. And when he spotted that Graham Doyle had raced off his line but wasn't going to make it, he curled the ball sweetly past him to make it 3-1.
Aidan Keenan came on for Aidan Friel on the left, with Shane Dunne reverting to the right, with two Galway corners cleared by the new arrival and Paul Murphy respectively.
However, the red mist descended on Murphy in the 72nd minute and he can have no complaints. Paul Sinnott won the ball from him fairly in a midfield tussle, and his frustration showed as he tackled him from behind, leaving referee McKeon with no option. It means that Murphy, the only ever-present thus far apart from Graham Doyle, will miss the long bus journey to Ballybofey on Friday.
Lee Grace headed a Ryan Connolly free-kick clear before Shane Dempsey came on for Chris Kenny, with the substitute's long ball to the right for Shane Dunne leading to a cross-cum-shot as Jonny Bonner tried in vain to get a touch.
Danny Ledwith crossed into Conor Winn's grateful arms while Armin Aganovic dealt with an attempted through ball from Dunne to Danny Furlong before a one-two between Kevin Devaney and Paul Sinnott created a very good chance for Galway. Thankfully Stephen Last managed to hook it clear, while Conor Melody shot wide after Stephen Walsh cut in from the left.
Andy Mulligan was only on the field three minutes when he gave Youths renewed hope with another goal which defied the territorial trends. After robbing Ryan Connolly of the ball he tried a speculative shot from outside the box, and it seemed to take a bounce just in front of Conor Winn which deceived him as Mulligan chalked up his fourth league goal.
Galway, intent on playing down the clock, forced four corners before Youths finally managed to get the ball away. However, they conceded a fourth goal for the third time this season midway through the three extra minutes announced.
Stephen Walsh played Vinny Faherty through and the local legend wasn't going to miss after beating the offside trap, calmly finishing out of Graham Doyle's reach to leave Youths with a miserable long journey home from the west to endure after a game watched by 1,006 spectators.
Wexford Youths: Graham Doyle (capt.); Craig McCabe, Stephen Last, Lee Grace; Aidan Friel, Shane Dunne, Chris Kenny, Jonny Bonner, Danny Ledwith; Paul Murphy, Danny Furlong. Subs. - Aidan Keenan for Friel (62), Shane Dempsey for Kenny (74), Andy Mulligan for Bonner (82), also Gavin Dowling, Eric Molloy, Conor O'Keeffe, Conor Whittle.
Galway United: Conor Winn; Colm Horgan, Armin Aganovic, Stephen Folan, Stephen Walsh; Gary Shanahan, Paul Sinnott, Ryan Connolly (capt.), Kevin Devaney; Conor Melody, Vinny Faherty. Subs. - Jose Garcia for Connolly (90+2), Pádraic Cunningham for Faherty (90+3), also Sam Ramsbottom, Alex Byrne, Kilian Cantwell, Enda Curran, Cormac Rafterty.
Referee: David McKeon (Dublin).