Wexford Youths were 2-0 winners at Ferrycarrig Park over Longford Town, who are now worryingly adrift from a relegation play-off spot. Youths were deserving winners on a night in a game where both teams had a huge amount at stake.
With both sides struggling defensively this season it was a night withthere was an expectation that there would be goals. Both came for the home side, and both courtesy from dead ball strikes. And Few would have expected to see such an exquisite goal as the one the 481 crowd witness courtesy of Jonny Bonner’s sublime first half free kick.
Wexford made 3 changes to the team that got easily beaten by Sligo a week earlier. Eric Molloy returned from injury along with Craig McCabe and fans' favourite Aidan Keenan getting his first start of the season.
The inclusion of McCabe mean Lee Grace who had been deputising at left back in previous weeks moved into a holding midfield role. Longford made two changes from their 2-1 defeat to Shamrock Rovers, with Don Cowan and Jamie Mulhall coming into their team.
Wexford had the assistance of a strong wind aiding them in the opening half. This helped the home side settle quickly and they dominated the opening exchanges.
It was noticeable that after a season where the Youths have received praise for attempts to play neat intricate passing football they changed their tactics for this game. During the first half period one could point to the elements playing a role in this change of style of but it became clear the Youths had a long ball tactic. After getting caught playing football in dangerous areas in recent week the Youths now focused on turning the opposition centre halves via long balls over the top.
The opening period was dull with both teams sussing each other out. With such a huge emphasis on both teams to make sure they didn’t lose the game, the opening stages were always going to be cagey. The only occasion where either team looked like scoring was when Danny Furlong met a right wing cross from Conor O Keeffe to force Ryan Coulter into a save.
With chances few and far between from open play, set pieces would be crucial. It was after the ever industrious Keenan got onto a knock down on the edge of the box and despite being heavily outnumbered managed to win a free kick in favour of his team. Positioned right of the goals Jonny Bonner stepped up to curl a sumptuous free kick into the top left hand corner of the net.
It was Longford Town’s failure to deal with the long ball threat posed by the Youths that was the root of their problems in the first half. Longford's only notable chance in the first half came on the stroke of half time when Eddie Dsane blazed over from close range after meeting an inviting cross from Jamie Mulhall.
Both sides made half-time substitutions with Andy Mulligan replacing the injured Eric Molloy for Wexford Youths and Kevin O Connor replacing Mark Hughes for the Town.
Despite the aid of the strong wind at their backs and some decent positioned set pieces Longford couldn’t prise an opening in the Youths defence during the opening 15 minutes of the second half.
Indeed it was the Youths who came closes to the second goal of the game when Stephen Last, who was a threat throughout from set pieces, rose highest to force Coulter into tipping over his own bar.
Breaking from the resulting corner from Coulter’s save, Dsane got through a gap in the home defence. Played through by Kaleem Simon's left-footed pass, Dsane had only Graham Doyle to beat but somehow managed to sky his shot over the bar.
Bonner nearly doubled his side's lead and his own personal tally in the 79 minute after he released a powerful drive from long distance to trouble Coulter.
With Longford pushing hard for an equaliser their recently signed centre half Yann got caught in possession by Paul Murphy, who looked back to his best on the night. With Murphy bearing down on goalkeeper, Coulter advanced only for Murphy to round him, only to be tripped by the Longford keeper.
Referee Ben Connolly produced a red card for Coulter and Longford, with no substitutions left, needed to select one of their on field player to face the penalty.
The man at fault for losing possession Yann stepped into the goal and after a long delay between putting on the keeper’s jersey and fitting his new attire of the goalkeeper’s gloves he was ready to face Murphy’s spot kick. Despite the long delay Murphy calmly dispatched to the corner of the net past Longford's hapless new keeper.
The full time whistle sounded quickly after to wrap up a miserable evening for Longford and a joyous victory the home side. This result had huge implications of the relegation battle with the gap between Longford and Wexford widening to 8 points.
Wexford Youths: Graham Doyle, Craig McCabe, Gary Delaney, Stephen Last, Conor O'Keeffe, Jonny Bonner, Lee Grace, Aidan Keenan (Chris Kenny 86), Eric Molloy (Andy Mulligan 46), Paul Murphy, Danny Furlong (Aidan Friel 89).
Subs not used: Gavin Dowling (gk), Shane Dunne, Shane Dempsey, Peter Higgins.
Booked: Aidan Keenan (48), Paul Murphy (74).
Longford Town: Ryan Coulter; Jamie Mulhall, Conor Powell, Yann Mvita Nkolu, Noel Haverty; Philip Gannon (Kealan Dillon 87), Mark Hughes (Kevin O'Connor 46), Kaleem Simon, Don Cowan (Gaius Makouta 64), Eddie Dsane, David O'Sullivan.
Subs not used: Paul Skinner (gk), Pat Flynn, Rhys Gorman, Karl Chambers.
Booked: Yann Mvita Nkelu (22), Don Cowan (56), Eddie Dsane (85).
Sent off: Ryan Coulter (90).
Referee: Ben Connolly.
Extratime.ie Player of the Match: Paul Murphy (Wexford Youths).