Friday 20 July 2018

Super saints see off leaders Ferns

Ivan Meegan of Ferns United and Páraic Conway of St. Leonards
Ivan Meegan of Ferns United and Páraic Conway of St. Leonards
John Breen of Ferns United and Donal Kiely of St. Leonards battle for the ball

Dean Goodison

Hosts Ferns' title hopes were dealt a crushing blow on Sunday as ten-man St. Leonards claimed a hard-earned fifth victory of the season in Division 1 of the Wexford Football League.

Ferns United 2 St. Leonards 4

The league leaders have played more games than those just behind them and they really needed a win to enhance their hopes of keeping Bridge Rovers and Corach Ramblers at bay.

However, St. Leonards had a point to prove too, after an indifferent season to date.

The visitors drew first blood in the early stages when Graeme Cullen volleyed home a cross that evaded the Ferns defence.

As the period wore on, the league leaders started to find their footing and created several chances.

A great saving tackle by Jack Burford prevented Tomás Hawkins from latching on to Ryan Nolan's through-ball.

Ferns did grab the equaliser in the 30th minute with those two combining again, as Nolan crossed from the left and Hawkins smashed a volley high past Micheál Ryan.

The St. Leonards goalkeeper made a fantastic stop from Nolan seconds after the equaliser as Ferns continued to press.

Nolan, who has been part of Wexford football boss Seamus McEnaney's plans this season, chipped wide of the post from Derek Thorpe's pass with nine minutes left in the half.

Not to be outdone, the Ballycullane boys scored on a break at the other end. Páraic Conway tried to slide the ball in to Matty Flynn; a defender's toe got in the way but only poked it to the lurking Seán 'Mini' Ryan and he made it 2-1 at the interval.

Ferns came out after the re-start full of intent. Nolan crossed from the right - more often than not the hosts' chosen side of attack - for Hawkins but his header cracked the crossbar.

After 15 minutes of home domination, St. Leonards looked to have weathered the storm.

Seán Ryan flashed over from the edge of the area in the 64th minute and was just denied by a superb Gavin Sludds tackle five minutes later.

When Tony Cleere deflected Conway's header over the bar, the pressure was momentarily relieved. However, Fintan Ryan forced Matty Flynn's resulting corner into Seán Ryan's path and the hot-shot attacker made no mistake, rifling high to John Thorpe's net.

Game over? Maybe not, as three minutes later a melee ended with three yellow cards and saw Tom Foran dismissed.

Ferns set about attacking the ten men and pulled a goal back six minutes from time when Hawkins' shot was questionably adjudged to have crossed the line, despite furious rebuffs from St. Leonards stopper Micheál Ryan.

The closest Ferns came to a leveller was when John Breen headed Ivan Meegan's cross onto the woodwork in the 90th minute.

Yet St. Leonards wrapped up the points deep into added-time when Seán Ryan sent Conway away and he beat Thorpe at the second time of asking.

Ferns United: John Thorpe; Patrick Skelton, Gavin Sludds, Derek Thorpe, Tony Cleere; Barry Breen, John Breen, Tommy Dwyer, Ivan Meegan; Ryan Nolan, Tomás Hawkins. Subs. - Daryl Kearns for Skelton (90+1), also Anthony Dwyer, Nathan Breslin.

St. Leonards: Micheál Ryan; Shane Doyle, Jack Burford, Jamie Cooney, Tom Foran; Fintan Ryan, Donal Kiely; Graeme Cullen, Páraic Conway, Matty Flynn; Seán Ryan. Subs. - Martin Fitzharris for Doyle (53), Kenneth Cahill for Burford (70), also Tom Breen.

Referee: Kieran Dunne.

Wexford People