Youths make their point
Wexford Youths 0 Shelbourne 0
A Steadfast defensive showing gave Wexford Youths a valuable point against Shelbourne in the race for the Continental Tyres Women's National League title in Ferrycarrig Park on Saturday evening last.
While the stalemate means Youths' destiny is in their own hands, it was disastrous result for champions Shelbourne. With a game in hand, the North Dublin side sit seven points behind Wexford and they will need two slips by Laura Heffernan's side to have any hope.
A point was always going to be a good result for Wexford and they set up as such. The wingers played deep, the midfield sat and the back four played really well as they frustrated a toothless Shelbourne outfit.
If there was a sense of relief that flying attacker Leanne Kiernan missed out through injury for the visitors, Youths rearguard must have been giddy with excitement when they saw Niamh Prior line-up at left-back.
Managers always think they are smarter than anyone else, it's in their DNA. Yet it would take some explaining on Shelbourne boss Mark Leavy's behalf to justify that decision.
Prior gave Nicola Sinnott a torrid time in AUL last month and with his side desperate for a win, that positional decision played right into Wexford's hands.
His side did pass the ball around nicely, much more crisply than their opponents, but it was all in front of Wexford. Nothing really changed for Youths, they still couldn't keep possession, the out-ball was usually a long punt forward or wide, meaning Katrina Parrock, and later Claire O'Riordan, fed off scraps.
That's nothing new at this stage, Wexford have to win this league with heart, desire and good defending, it's got them this far.
They might need to win the last three but two victories could well do the job if one of them is against Peamount.
Apart from what Shelbourne were missing in the attacking third, the big difference for the hosts was the play of Edel Kennedy. She shielded the back four superbly, her breaking up of attacks through the middle was exceptional.
The visitors set up in their usual formation but started with their full-back a little more advanced than usual. Slowly, as the game went on, they became more orthodox. Prior did get forward a handful of times but nowhere near deep enough, often enough.
Early on, Wexford conceded several free-kicks around the edge of the area but they defended them well, culminating in Jess Gleeson blocking Alex Kavanagh's curling effort from the edge of the 'D'.
When Amanda McQuillan came off her line and made a mess of a 9th minute clearance, Linda Douglas could only cannon her shot off a defender. Calamity almost struck again in the 25th minute when the Shels goalkeeper drilled the ball into Jamie Finn and it trickled just wide.
Lauren Dwyer provided a superb goal-saving tackle on Gloria Douglas four yards from goal when Fiona Donnelly crossed in the 33rd minute. At the other end, Becky Cassin chipped onto the roof of the net just before the break.
A gift from Sophie Lenehan let Siobhan Killeen in one-on-one early in the second half but the Shelbourne winger chipped onto the top of the net. Cassin forced McQuillan into a solid save in the 63rd minute and Edel Kennedy volleyed Hansberry's resulting corner wide right.
Wexford survived a big penalty shout ten minutes from time. Killeen danced inside, along the edge of the area and went down under a mis-timed sliding tackle. Referee Nicky Boland reached for his whistle but didn't put it to his mouth, presumably deciding that any contact was instigated by the attacker hanging a leg.
Deep into injury time Wexford almost snatched a winner. Gleeson went long down the left to O'Riordan. The striker over-hit her shot-cum-cross but Emma Hansberry was alert and kept the ball in play.
The Sligo native looked up, picked out Kylie Murphy on the run into the box but the Wexford skipper fired her shot wide from ten yards out.
Youths don't play again in the league until they visit UCD on October 1st.
They do, however, host Manulla of Mayo in the FAI Cup quarter-final in Ferrycarrig Park on Saturday evening at 6 p.m.
WEXFORD YOUTHS: Sophie Lenehan; Nicola Sinnott, Jess Gleeson, Orlaith Conlon, Lauren Dwyer; Edel Kennedy; Linda Douglas, Kylie Murphy (capt.), Becky Cassin, Emma Hansberry; Katrina Parrock. Subs. - Aisling Frawley for Douglas (55), Claire O'Riordan for Parrock (55), Orla Casey for Cassin (87), also, Jenny O'Keeffe, Rianna Jarrett, Aoibhín Webb, Sadbh McCarthy.
SHELBOURNE: Amanda McQuillan; Jamie Finn, Rachel Graham, Seana Cooke, Niamh Prior; Roma McLoughlin, Pearl Slattery; Siobhan Killeen, Alex Kavanagh, Fiona Donnelly; Gloria Douglas. Subs. - Lynn Craven for McLoughlin, inj (51), Alannah McEvoy for Donnelly (79), Sophie Watters for Killeen (87), also, Niamh Walsh, Rachel Kelly, Chloe McNamee, Isabeál Atkinson.
REFEREE: Nicky Boland (Wexford).