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Wexford 1 - 2 Athlone

It wasn't to be a winning start to life at Ferrycarrig Park for Wexford FC, as Ricky Fox's thunderbolt 30 minutes from time ended up being just a consolation goal for the hosts.

Despite the heavy rain and wind in Ferrycarrig Park, both Athlone and Wexford combined to produce an entertaining game of football. Both teams looked to attack, and it took just 7 minutes for Wexford to get in to the swing of things. Shane Dunne dropping a ball over the top looking for Lee Duffy who held off the defender to take control and pass out wide to Mark Slater on the right. Unfortunately Slater's cross back in to the middle was over hit, and Athlone relieved the pressure with a goal kick. Just a minute later, Duffy got the ball again, this time in to his feet. As Sean Hurley made the overlap on the left, a clever back heel from Duffy played him in. Hurley's low powerful cross was only met by an Athlone defender and the ball was cleared.

Craig Wall must have then been feeling left out, because moments later he picked the ball up in midfield and drove towards goal. He went past 3 defenders who were unable to get a challenge in, but unfortunately for Wall, his final touch on the ball was just a little too heavy and it got away from him meaning that Igor Labuts in the Athlone goal was able to gather.

The early pressure from Wexford seemed to awaken Athlone. An attack from Niall Scullion down the right had Andrew O'Connor chasing back, but Scullion's cross was driven in to the arms of the grateful Graham Doyle in the Wexford goal.

With both teams now looking like they were wanting to attack, it was Wexford's turn to drive at the goal. Lee Duffy picked the ball up on the right hand side and used his pace to go past David Brookes. Duffy got to the byline and pulled the ball back, but the clearance was made by the Athlone defence. The ball worked it's way out to Mark Slater, and it was once again Brookes who was left trying to deal with the problem. This time he managed a little better, and Slater was forced to play the ball back to Ricky Fox. The cross came in, was missed by everyone, and eventually the ball ended up at the feet of Sean Hurley. His deep cross was turned behind by Athlone, but the resulting corner kick came to nothing. Wexford were really starting to build up a head of steam, and it felt like it would only be a matter of time before the first goal arrived.

As is typical with the beautiful game, it wasn't Wexford who made the break through, but rather the visitors. A long diagonal ball from Brookes was put out for a throw in by Andrew O'Connor. The ball ended up at the feet of Scullion, and his cross from the right hand side fell between Kenny, McCormack and 'keeper Doyle. Unfortunately for the home side it was Jose Viegas who was alive to the situation, and he was able to roll the ball past Doyle in to the bottom right hand corner of the net.

After the goal, it was Wexford who continued to pile on the pressure. Crosses coming in from both sides of the pitch, but the chances just weren't falling for the home side. Then, as earlier in the match, after good play from Wexford, it was Athlone who put the ball in to the net for a second time. With just a minute to go until halftime, Scullion's cross from the right found the head of Colm Coss 6 yards from goal and his header hit the underside of the bar before hitting the back of the net. In the pouring rain, the whistle for the end of the first half came, and both teams retreated to the relative safety of the dry dressing rooms.

As the second half began, it was Wexford who began on the front foot. When the ball fell to Craig Wall on the edge of the area, his ferocious shot was only gathered by Labuts at the second attempt. 

With a 2 goal lead, Athlone then made a change to their tactics. The wonderfully gifted Jose Viegas was not venturing forward as much as he had been earlier in the game, and it was obvious to all that his main priority for the second half was to stop Ricky Fox from exploiting the Athlone left. With the tactic of trying to stop Wexford's attacking play down the right, it was Hurley and O'Connor who were combining well down the left. O'Connor was a constant threat overlapping Hurley and getting crosses in.

Around the hour mark, Wexford made their first substitution of the night. Adam Hanlon replaced Mark Slater on the right of midfield, and within minutes Wexford had a goal back. O'Connor and Hurley combined well down the Wexford left and the latter's cross dribbled all the way across the Athlone penalty area. Ricky Fox sensed what was coming and met the ball just on the edge of the box. His rocket of a shot went straight towards the top right hand corner of the goal, and Labuts could only watch as the majority of the 323 inside Ferrycarrig Park celebrated.

Shane Dunne was continuing to show plenty of composure on the ball in the midfield and was constantly stepping away from Athlone players with ease. His passing was top notch as he tried to pick out the wide men in Hanlon and Hurley. As could be expected though, with Wexford pressing for an equaliser, Athlone were finding space to catch Wexford on the break. In fact, more precise passing from the Athlone forwards could have meant Athlone's vicotry was a lot more comfortable.

In the 65th minute, the second change for Wexford came. John McKeown replaced Craig Wall and it was hoped he might be able to unlock the Athlone defence. Wexford continued to press, but the Athlone defence were standing firm. With 10 minutes to go, Locke gambled looking for the leveller, and forward Craig Hayes replaced centre back Owen McCormack.

Going in to the last moments of the match, it was the Athlone fans that were crying out for the whistle. They were nervous, and it told a story of just how well Wexford had done at times in this match. Overall, a draw may have been a fair result, but it was Athlone who returned to the midlands with all 3 points that keeps them joint-top of the table with U.C.D. on 6 points.

Next up for Wexford is a trip to Stradbrook to play Cabinteely on Friday night. Kick off is 7:45pm

Wexford: Graham Doyle, Ricky Fox, Andrew O'Connor, Ross Kenny, Owen McCormack (Craig Hayes, 80), Thomas Croke, Sean Hurley, Craig Wall (John McKeown, 65), Lee Duffy, Shane Dunne, Mark Slater (Adam Hanlon, 58). Not used: Liam Donnelly, Craig McCabe, Jamie Fox, Corey Chambers

Athlone: Igor Labuts, Frederico Hernandes (Conor Barry, 69), David Brookes, Kirils Grigorovs, Cormac Raftery, Dragos Sfrijan, Niall Scullion, Colm Coss, Jason Lyons, Val Feeney, Jose Viegas. Not used: Ian Dempsey, Aaron Brilly, Jason Molloy, Ethan Keogh, Ryan Gaffney, Conor Gleeson

 

CURRENT STANDINGS

League of Ireland First Division

    Pld +/- Pts
6 Longford 28 8 37
7 Wexford FC 28 -25 19
8 Athlone Town 28 -50 17

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Under 19 - Southern Division

    Pld +/- Pts
8 Cabinteely 18 -14 18
9 Wexford FC 18 -15 16
10 Bray Wanderers 18 -24 10

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Under 17 - Southern Division

    Pld +/- Pts
8 Kerry League 20 -20 22
9 Wexford FC 20 -17 19
10 UCD 20 -20 15

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Under 15 - Group 3

    Pld +/- Pts
1 Waterford 10 14 22
2 Wexford FC 10 17 20
3 Limerick 10 9 18

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Women's National League

    Pld +/- Pts
1 Wexford Youths WFC 18 18 40
2 Peamount Utd 18 24 38
3 Shelbourne LFC 18 35 31

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