Wexford reeled in by Drogs
SSE Airtricity First Div Series 15: Wexford FC 1 Drogheda Utd 2
An unwelcome pattern continued in Ferrycarrig Park on Friday when Wexford F.C. lost a third successive SSE Airtricity First Division tie on a 2-1 scoreline.
Drogheda United were the victorious side on this occasion, moving into second spot on the table behind Shelbourne even though they were minus six players through injury for the journey to the south-east.
Indeed, it sparked an unusual first as, for a change, Wexford had more players on the bench than their depleted rivals.
And while that 2-1 outcome was a repeat of the two most recent games, at home to current leaders Shelbourne and away to Bray Wanderers, it came about in different circumstances.
The Wexford goals in those ties were of the consolation variety, after initially falling 2-0 in arrears, but this time around they took the lead and were unfortunately unable to hold onto it.
All three goals arrived in the first-half, with the home side getting off the mark in the 15th minute.
It came about when the ever-lively Jack Doherty nicked the ball away from Drogheda centre-half Luke Gallagher as he tried to bring it under control.
The top scorer for the season thus far slid a neat through pass into the path of Danny Furlong who played it around advancing netminder Luca Gratzer before rolling into a gaping net for his fifth goal of the campaign, and second in successive matches.
The lead lasted for twelve minutes before Drogheda equalised from a set-piece. Lone striker Chris Lyons was fouled on the right flank, and Seán Brennan's free-kick was headed home by centre-half Luke McNally after Corey Chambers misjudged its flight in the swirling wind.
The Louth side didn't have to wait long for what proved to be the winner, as the game had just moved into the 31st minute when full-back Conor Kane delivered a crisp, low cross from the left, and it was first-timed into the right corner of the net by captain Jake Hyland.
To continue that 2-1 theme, Drogheda had won by the same scoreline when the sides met in United Park earlier in the campaign, although on that occasion they needed a very late winner to get the job done.
There was just one change to the Wexford line-up from the defeat away to Bray, with the suspended Seán Callan replaced as the right-sided centre-half by Darragh O'Connor who has featured primarily at left-back in recent times.
The game was largely uneventful prior to Furlong's well-taken goal, although Corey Chambers did make a handy save from a weak Seán Brennan free-kick beforehand.
Drogheda forced three corners in quick succession after conceding that goal from a 5-0 first-half count, and the third almost led to an equaliser.
Brennan's delivery from the left was met by Luke Gallagher who stooped to get in a header that was parried by Chambers, with the rebound put over the bar by James Clarke.
A long-range shot by Brennan had the power but not the accuracy to force Wexford's netminder into a save, but the visitors were back in business when their opening goal arrived in the 27th minute from Luke McNally.
Chris Lyons had the ball in the net again two minutes later from a right-wing cross by James Brown, but it was ruled out for offside.
Jake Hyland's crisp finish with his left peg then left Wexford chasing the game, and Thomas Croke was booked for a foul on the scorer that led to a free-kick sent wide by Brennan.
And Drogheda ended the half forcing two more corners, with the latter leading to a weak header left and wide from first goalscorer McNally.
With the wind behind them in the second-half, Wexford went with a more adventurous approach, as captain Chris Kenny was pushed forward to bolster the attack and his side ended the contest in a 3-4-3 formation.
And the Enniscorthy man had a very good chance of getting an equaliser in the 68th minute, only to volley right and wide following a super delivery from the byline by Jack Doherty.
Drogheda ought to have made it 3-1 earlier when Jake Hyland played a one-two with James Clarke to the left of the clubhouse end goal before crossing for Chris Lyons whose glancing header went right and wide.
That was in the 51st minute, with Chris Kenny then showing the first sign that he might pose a threat up front when he tried to get on the end of a Doherty assist, only to concede a free-kick.
Luke Gallagher saw yellow for a foul on Ryan Nolan before Wexford forced their first corner (the final count was 7-2 for Drogheda), but Doherty wasted it with a wide at the near post.
Nolan cleared the danger from a McNally header after another flag-kick for the leaders, while Chambers was equal to a left-footed shot from substitute Jordan Adeyemo after a Conor Kane cross.
Kenny's missed chance quickly followed, and Drogheda signalled an attitude of 'what we have, we hold' by replacing striker Chris Lyons with defender Kevin Farragher 17 minutes from the end.
After a pretty uneventful ten minutes, Wexford did press in the closing stages, with a speculative high effort from distance by Thomas Croke forcing Luca Gratzer to back-pedal before making a comfortable catch.
Drogheda's James Brown was booked for dissent, before the last Wexford corner went wide at the near post off Danny Furlong.
However, the scorer of the game's first goal did have a great opportunity to force a late equaliser just over halfway through the three added minutes announced.
A Jack Doherty free-kick was only partially cleared before the ball screwed off the boot of Chris Kenny into the path of Furlong who volleyed over after getting a firm connection in an excellent position.
Kenny and Jake Hyland were booked before play resumed, with a bid to release the former from a Ryan Nolan pass spoiled by the offside flag and leading to the last yellow card of the game for the latter with seconds remaining.
It wasn't a good night overall for Wexford, as the team nearest to them at the bottom, Athlone Town, gained a point at home to Limerick to extend the gap between them to three.
Next up is a long journey to third-placed Longford Town next Saturday at 7.45 p.m., and the trip will be made with the addition of John Peare and Ricky Fox.
The Enniscorthy duo signed on for the rest of the season over the weekend, leaving behind successful domestic Junior campaigns with first-time title winners Moyne Rangers and their arch-rivals, Shamrock Rovers, respectively.
Of course, both are no strangers to Ferrycarrig Park, with Fox's most recent stint there producing 15 league appearances and one cracking goal from long distance against Athlone Town in 2017, while Peare came off the bench once in Youths' sole Premier Division campaign in the previous season, a 1-0 loss to Derry City in the Brandywell.
Wexford F.C.: Corey Chambers; Paddy Cahill, Darragh O'Connor, Chris Kenny (capt.), Lee Costello; Danny Doyle, Ryan Nolan, Thomas Croke, Emmet Nugent; Jack Doherty, Danny Furlong. Subs. - Nika Arevadze for Doyle (79), Seán Roche for Nugent (86), also Jason McGuire, Andrew Farrell, Ciarán Paige.
Drogheda United: Luca Gratzer; James Brown, Luke Gallagher, Luke McNally, Conor Kane; Cian Kavanagh, Jake Hyland (capt.); Luke Heeney, Seán Brennan, James Clarke; Chris Lyons. Subs. - Jordan Adeyemo for Kavanagh (61), Kevin Farragher for Lyons (73), Eoin McPhillips for Clarke, also Daniel Grace.
Referee: Gavin Colfer (Wicklow).