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Wednesday 17 July 2019

Stalemate ends losing streak

Soccer: SSE Airtricity first division series 17 - Wexford F.C. 0, Limerick F.C. 0

Netminder Corey Chambers is kept on his toes by this rising shot from a Limerick rival
Netminder Corey Chambers is kept on his toes by this rising shot from a Limerick rival

Alan Aherne in Ferrycarrig Park

Wexford F.C. collected their first point in the SSE Airtricity First Division since May 10 when they held play-off hopefuls Limerick F.C. to a scoreless draw in miserable weather conditions in Ferrycarrig Park on Friday.

That 2-2 share of the spoils at home to Cobh Ramblers last month had been followed by four successive one-goal defeats, so it was important to end that barren sequence as the teams head into their short mid-season break.

There will be no more action until Friday week when Wexford journey to Stradbrook to face Cabinteely, and for a long spell in this game it appeared that both sides had decided to go on holidays a couple of hours ahead of schedule.

Certainly, the opening 45 minutes provided the most non-descript half of football witnessed in the entire season thus far, although there was a bit more life to proceedings on the re-start.

In mitigation, it must be said that the constant rain and slippery underfoot conditions didn't help matters, making for a rather dour spectacle.

Wexford were happy at the finish to have arrested their slide against players who would consider themselves good enough to make an immediate return to Premier ranks, despite their well-documented financial woes of recent months.

Limerick are now the only team that Brian O'Sullivan's side have taken points off both home and away this season, having also shared the spoils in the Markets Field in April when it ended 1-1.

Unfortunately, they still lie bottom and haven't got into double figures yet, even though a possible 51 points have been on offer from their 17 matches thus far.

That draw in Limerick was the only point garnered on the road, to go with home wins over Bray Wanderers and Athlone Town, plus that 2-2 with Cobh along with Friday's outcome.

And the only down side to the result was that Athlone also picked up a point versus Cabinteely on Friday, meaning that there's still a gap of three between the ninth- and tenth-placed teams.

While results in general have been poor, one thing that usually isn't lacking in Wexford games is a goal or two, even if they usually arrive at the wrong end.

In that regard, it was interesting to note that this stalemate was the first scoreless draw for the club since Drogheda United visited Ferrycarrig Park on July 27 last year.

The team showed four changes from the starting eleven in that gut-wrenching late loss away to Longford six days earlier, with Seán Callan and Ryan Nolan out through injury and suspension respectively, while wingers Nika Arevadze and Danny Doyle were kept on the bench.

Blackwater's Conor Sutton had come on in the midlands for his first piece of action since re-joining the club, and he started in an all-Wexford centre-half partnership with Clonroche lad Darragh O'Connor.

Likewise, Enniscorthy's John Peare followed up his substitute's role against Longford with selection on the right flank, while right-back Paddy Cahill and centre-forward Danny Furlong returned from suspension and injury respectively.

Another recent local acquisition with past experience with the club, Ricky Fox, was still suspended, while interesting news broke over the weekend as crowd-pleasing winger Andy Mulligan has been snapped up by manager Brian O'Sullivan.

The ex-Bohs player was a real fans' favourite with the First Division winning-crew of 2015, and he went on to make 27 appearances, including 19 starts, and score four goals in the following season's top flight.

He then went to play with Southern United in New Zealand along with some of his colleagues, but his football has been limited to just one appearance with non-league Highview Athletic in Kilkenny since coming home, as a result of a serious ACL injury sustained in November of 2017.

It will be a minimum of three weeks before he returns to full fitness, but his pace and trickery could be the perfect foil for Danny Furlong who thrived on the service he provided during Youths' golden era.

While a glancing header from Darragh O'Connor after a Jack Doherty free-kick inside two minutes went left and wide on Friday, precious little of note occurred in either goalmouth for the remainder of the opening half.

Doherty directed the sole Wexford corner of the 90 minutes into the arms of Limerick netminder Jack Brady in the 13th minute, while some good control by visiting centre-forward Kieran 'Red' Hanlon was followed by a shot over Corey Chambers' crossbar on their first decent attack.

Paddy Cahill cleared a dangerous low cross from Limerick captain Shaun Kelly in the 24th minute, while Darren Murphy - scorer of his side's equaliser in the April clash - couldn't keep a shot down from distance.

Thomas Croke collected a yellow card for stopping Karl O'Sullivan in his tracks, after a couple of fouls on Paddy Cahill left Limerick lucky to avoid similar sanction.

Darragh O'Connor headed the free-kick from Shane Tracy that followed to safety, while Lee Devitt was too close to the byline to force Corey Chambers into making a save when he did well to chase what looked like a lost cause in the shape of a long ball by Darren Murphy in the 34th minute.

Wexford fortunately recovered in a flash after O'Connor was momentarily robbed in his own penalty area by Devitt, with Limerick's Shane Tracy collecting a booking before the first real test for either goalkeeper arrived in the 38th minute.

Chris Kenny lofted a long ball towards Danny Furlong who rose with a defender, and it fell kindly for Jack Doherty whose first-time shot from outside the box had plenty of power but was unfortunately seen all the way by number one Jack Brady.

Limerick earned their first corner in the 44th minute, with Tracy's delivery from the right headed over at the near post by Karl O'Sullivan.

The visitors threatened first on the re-start, with Devitt's left-foot volley from a deep Shaun Kelly cross collected safely by Corey Chambers.

A long run and shot by O'Sullivan produced a save from the netminder, and the first of four unanswered Limerick corners after the interval, but it was cleared at the second attempt.

John Peare almost announced his return in style in the 53rd minute when he played a one-two with Jack Doherty and nearly squeezed the ball home at Jack Brady's near post, with Thomas Croke's snapshot in the follow-up action blocked.

Chambers had to make a good reaction save after a low shot from Kieran Hanlon took a deflection off a defender's foot in the 60th minute.

The corner that followed wasn't cleared, with the second delivery from the left by Karl O'Sullivan arriving at the near post where Kieran Hanlon's shot was kept out by Chambers.

Wexford wingers John Peare and Emmet Nugent were replaced by Nika Arevadze and Danny Doyle respectively as Limerick also utilised their bench, but neither side created a clearcut opening before the finish.

Darren Murphy drove a Limerick free-kick from a central position just outside the box into the wall, with Shane Tracy sending the rebound wide.

A second foul just a few yards further away from the penalty area led to Tracy firing over the crossbar with his left peg, while his next set-piece was headed to safety by Darragh O'Connor.

Wexford did force one threatening break in the 86th minute when Thomas Croke and Danny Doyle combined before top scorer Jack Doherty's first-time shot from the left of the area was saved with comfort by Jack Brady.

Doherty then got too much power on a cross intended for Danny Furlong after a rare error by Limerick's experienced centre-half Robbie Williams.

Wexford defended two late corners before a speculative long-range shot by Chris Kenny, their last throw of the dice, didn't trouble netminder Brady.

The three extra minutes were just about up when a William Fitzgerald cross was dealt with by the defence, leaving the home side with a rare commodity - a positive result for only the fifth time this season.

There will be no action this coming weekend owing to the mid-season break, and Wexford will resume in Stradbrook versus Cabinteely on Friday, June 28, at 7.45 p.m.

They will be away once again seven days later, to their nearest rivals above them on the table, Athlone Town, and their next game on home turf will be against the team placed third from bottom, Galway United, on July 12.

Wexford F.C.: Corey Chambers; Paddy Cahill, Conor Sutton, Darragh O'Connor, Lee Costello; John Peare, Thomas Croke, Chris Kenny (capt.), Emmet Nugent; Jack Doherty, Danny Furlong. Subs. - Nika Arevadze for Peare (65), Danny Doyle for Nugent (77), also Jason McGuire, Seán Roche, Andrew Farrell.

Limerick F.C.: Jack Brady; Shaun Kelly (capt.), Robbie Williams, Killian Brouder, Shane Tracy; Karl O'Sullivan, Jason Hughes, Darren Murphy, Lee Devitt; Seán McSweeney; Kieran Hanlon. Subs. - Adam Foley for Hanlon (64), Ger Barry for O'Sullivan (70), William Fitzgerald for Devitt (81), also Tommy Holland, Edmond O'Dwyer, Aaron Fitzgerald.

Referee: Graham Kelly (Cork).

Wexford People