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Monday 14 October 2019

Stalemate against Galway in game of limited chances

SSE Airtricity First Division: Wexford FC 0 Galway United 0

Team captain Paddy Cahill seeking a gap between Christopher Horgan and Ivan Gonzalo Gamarra
Team captain Paddy Cahill seeking a gap between Christopher Horgan and Ivan Gonzalo Gamarra

Alan Aherne in Ferrycarrig Park

The points gap between second-last and bottom in the SSE Airtricity First Division remains the same after the two occupants of those lowly positions played out a rather dull scoreless draw on a perfect summer's evening for a game in Ferrycarrig Park on Friday.

The most charitable thing one could say about the contest is that it was a true reflection of where they both stand right now, as there was precious little in the way of entertainment to merit interest from the crowd.

One of Wexford's two new loan signings from Waterford, Shane Griffin, did catch the eye on his debut with a couple of free-kicks plus a later effort from distance that almost produced a goal.

However, the home side had good cause to be relieved at the final whistle because Galway could have snatched a win they wouldn't have deserved from a couple of late opportunities.

Colin Kelly should have done a lot better from a free header close to goal in the 88th minute from a lofted Conor Melody cross, directing it left and wide to the relief of netminder Jason McGuire who was given his first start.

And the game was more than halfway through its three added minutes when a Donal Higgins free-kick broke at the far post for substitute Wilson Waweru whose volley was blocked for a fruitless corner.

Looking at it from a positive point of view, the outcome was significantly better than Galway's 4-0 romp in the corresponding tie in March, and it was Wexford's second successive scoreless draw at home following the stalemate with Limerick in the middle of last month.

Similar to the previous week, the team showed five changes from the last outing, with McGuire preferred to Corey Chambers between the posts, while Emmet Nugent and Danny Furlong returned after being unavailable for the trip to Athlone.

Waterford loanees Shane Griffin and Darryl Walsh, a midfielder and central defender respectively, featured for the first time, and there was a return in the second 45 minutes for Conor English who last appeared as a substitute in a Premier Division game for Youths against St. Patrick's Athletic on April 15, 2016.

As well as Chambers, Lee Costello, Danny Doyle, Nika Arevadze and Seán Roche didn't start on this occasion after being involved in the 3-1 loss in Lissywollen seven nights earlier.

The first-half was a very uneventful affair, with Galway enjoying more of the play but lacking a cutting edge in the final third.

They shaded the overall corner count 6-5, and their first in the seventh minute saw full-back Marc Ludden stoop to get his head on a Donal Higgins delivery and send it narrowly right and wide.

A quickly-taken Shane Griffin free-kick almost released Danny Furlong on Wexford's first attack of note, but the striker was caught offside after exchanging passes with Ricky Fox.

Captain Paddy Cahill ballooned a poor attempt off target before three corners - two to Galway - yielded nothing in the way of opportunities.

The westerners did create an opening in the 34th minute via a Vinny Faherty cross from the left, with Donal Higgins displaying a neat first touch but then poking the ball over the bar with his second strike.

Colin Kelly didn't test McGuire with a shot that flew over, while Kevin Horgan saved comfortably from Paddy Cahill at the other end.

The most excitement of the opening half was generated in the two added minutes when Wexford were awarded a couple of free-kicks and Shane Griffin gave the first insight into his prowess from set-pieces.

The first opportunity came after a foul on Danny Furlong slightly to the left of goal and, although the Waterford youngster had considerable distance to negotiate, his shot was a powerful one and Kevin Horgan had to be at his best to turn it around the right post.

It wasn't long before Galway conceded another free-kick in broadly the same area, and this time Griffin opted for the left side and was unfortunate to see his sweet strike go narrowly to the wrong side of the posts.

Conor English resumed on the right wing in place of Emmet Nugent, and Griffin was up to his tricks once more inside two minutes of the re-start.

After intercepting a poor Adam Rooney pass, he fed Danny Furlong and got the return before his long-range piledriver was superbly tipped over the bar for a corner by Kevin Horgan.

There must have been trepidation among the Galway ranks when Thomas Croke was fouled on the edge of the penalty area in the 56th minute, but this time Griffin's effort was smothered by the wall for another fruitless flag-kick.

Colin Kelly shot tamely wide for the visitors before Ivan Gonzalo Gamarra was booked for a foul on Ricky Fox, who was retained on the left wing after impressing there in the second-half versus Athlone.

Darragh O'Connor almost released Danny Furlong with a fine long pass in the 65th minute, but Galway captain Stephen Walsh was alert to the danger and timed his tackle to perfection.

However, Furlong had an even better opening just 60 seconds later, and it was probably Wexford's best chance to hit the front.

The visitors were left undermanned in defence after losing the ball in the opposition half, and Paddy Cahill released the Rosslare Strand man in ample space.

Full-back Christopher Horgan did race back in a bid to put him off, and Furlong seemed to hesitate for a split second before blazing his shot over the bar.

A weak header by the wily Vinny Faherty was easily saved by Jason McGuire before Iarfhlaith Davoren's penalty appeal after a challenge by Andrew O'Connor was correctly ignored.

Adam Rooney looked vulnerable in the middle of Galway's back four, and his fresh air error in the 72nd minute saw Furlong cross for Conor English who shot over.

Darragh O'Connor wasn't able to get any power on his header from a Shane Griffin free-kick from the right, and that was Wexford's last chance before Galway threatened to nick a win in the game's dying embers.

While their last corner was cleared by Andrew O'Connor, Colin Kelly really should have forced Jason McGuire into a save at the very least from his headed opportunity in the 88th minute.

The miss was symptomatic of the ongoing struggles for Galway, a city with a proud footballing tradition that isn't reflected in their on-field performances this season.

It may be understandable for Wexford to be finding it hard to establish a foothold, given that there was no League of Ireland football in the county before 2007, but the westerners don't have the same excuse.

Maybe karma is at play, because they have been falling steadily ever since enticing Youths boss Shane Keegan to Eamonn Deacy Park in the fateful days before Wexford Youths' Premier Division play-off loss away to Drogheda three years ago.

As for Brian O'Sullivan's new-look squad, they now have seven games left to make it off the bottom of the table, having finished second-last in 2017 and 2018 respectively.

The FAI Cup first round draw wasn't kind to Wexford either, as they will be making the longest journey of all - to the Ryan McBride Memorial Stadium in the Brandywell - to take on Premier Division side Derry City on the weekend of August 11.

The main focus for the moment, though, is on the trip to St. Colman's Park on Saturday at 7 p.m. to face Cobh Ramblers, 2-1 winners last weekend against Athlone Town.

The month will conclude with an even more daunting journey, to lock horns with league leaders Shelbourne in Tolka Park, on July 26 at 7.45 p.m.

Wexford F.C.: Jason McGuire; Conor Sutton, Darragh O'Connor, Darryl Walsh, Andrew O'Connor; Paddy Cahill (capt.), Shane Griffin; Emmet Nugent, Thomas Croke, Ricky Fox; Danny Furlong. Subs. - Conor English for Nugent (HT), John Peare for Croke (79), Danny Doyle for Fox (89), also Corey Chambers, Lee Costello, Seán Roche, Daibhid Corish.

Galway United: Kevin Horgan; Christopher Horgan, Adam Rooney, Stephen Walsh (capt.), Marc Ludden; Ivan Gonzalo Gamarra; Colin Kelly, Donal Higgins, Iarfhlaith Davoren, Conor Melody; Vinny Faherty. Subs. - Conor Layng for Faherty (72), Joe Collins for Gamarra (78), Wilson Waweru for C. Horgan (82), also James Tierney, Cian Murphy, Mark Hannon, Andy Peters.

Referee: Kevin O'Sullivan (Cork).

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