Youths suffer setback in bid for promotion
WEXFORD YOUTHS' slim promotion hopes took a severe bashing in Jackman Park on Friday evening last as they went down heavily to second-placed Limerick in Airtricity League Division 1.
There will be plenty of frustration in the Youths camp after this one as they matched the title chasers for most of the first-half and had several opportunities to be ahead. Alas, it wasn't to be for the Ferrycarrig side who now fall seven points behind surging Waterford United in the battle for the final play-off place.
It could have been so different had the visitors took one of the excellent chances that fell their way in the opening 30 minutes.
Youths settled quickest and should have been ahead in the 16th minute. Brian Nolan's superb ball down the left saw Aidan Keenan felled as he headed towards the penalty area. Dean Broaders invitingly flighted the resulting free to the back post where a combination of Keenan and Eric Molloy forced a shot at goal that Barry Ryan saved from point-blank range.
Four minutes later and Wexford Youths were in again. This time it was Nolan's penetrating run through the middle that left the home defence flat-footed, however his shot from the left was off target and into the stanchion behind the goal.
After the early scares Limerick had chances of their own with Graham Doyle called into action on several occasions. The Youths stopper parried away a low Rory Gaffney shot, tipped two Shane Guthrie headers around the post and held on well from a Seán Brosnan shot from the left as the hosts upped their intensity.
A good spell for Youths towards the end of the opening half saw Shane Nolan flash a shot over the crossbar but just four minutes later they were behind. Seán Brosnan was given too much space on the left edge of the area and his controlled shot beat Doyle and nestled in the corner of the Youths net.
If Shane Keegan's side were upset at going behind they were left fuming moments later when Shane Treacy's penalty made it two. Joe Gamble pinged a ferocious shot from just outside the penalty area that smashed off Jamie Carr's arm - which was hanging by his side - with the Youths defender standing no more than four yards away. Referee Jim McKell wasn't perturbed by the rule book which mentions how a handball must be intentional to be a foul and pointed straight to the penalty spot.
After furious protest, that would last into and through half-time, Treacy tucked away the spotkick, and from there Youths never looked like recovering.
Broaders did fire over from Aidan Keenan's flicked header soon after the resumption but it soon got worse as Dave O'Leary's shinned volley flew into the top corner of Doyle's net in the 69th minute and Gaffney raced away for the fourth moments later.
While the goalmouth action dried up, two red cards came late on as both sides ended the night with ten men. Gamble went for two yellows for the hosts while Mark Phelan received a straight red for a reckless lunge which means he'll miss Youths must-win home derby against Waterford on Friday night.