Wexford FC All over here at the RSC, thanks to our hosts this afternoon & all the best for the season ahead. FT… https://t.co/s2lVMx8Qwa

Captain Craig McCabe in action last night

Courtesy of Brian de Salvo:

Last week’s victory against Cabinteely was about mental and physical toughness; Friday night was about measuring up to UCD’s beautiful game. Damian Locke’s Wexford side is beginning to show it is confident enough to confront anything the extraordinary Airtricity League First Division can throw at it.

It all stems from the manager. With Slater injured, Fox suspended and Sutton not available, Mr Locke was forced into making three changes and instigated a fourth by promoting last week’s match winner Eoin Porter to a starting role. His subsequent selection included three debutants straight from non league football and a complete change of formation from a back three to four-four-two. That’s chutzpah for you but, with Wexford now undefeated in the last three games, the manager’s inspiration has proved more effective than eccentric.

The early stages of the match saw the sides sizing each other up. Porter sought to carry on where he left off with the first shot on goal after only two minutes and a minute later UCD keeper Niall Corbet had to look sharp to take the ball as the effervescent Danny Doyle sought to nick it.

For his part, Corey Chambers caught a long ball into his penalty area from Rob Manley and had the first serious goalkeeping test of the evening when pushing a close range header over. After eighteen minutes Adam Hanlon wrong sided two UCD defenders and bore down on goal but lost impetus as he made to shoot to allow them to close him down. And the visitors’ corner count reached five as UCD began to impose themselves with their smooth passing game.

Chambers earned his corn with another tip over the bar but his was mostly routine stuff backing up a resolute Wexford defence in which McCabe stayed calm and Ross Kenny produced a moment of excellence when retrieving the ball after Greg Sloggett spelt danger close to goal. A.J. Lehane, the new left back was beginning to struggle after a bright start and Mikey Byrne, another recruit from local football, was finding the tempo of the game faster than he liked. But the diminutive defensive midfielder rallied to make two fine tackles in succession just after the half hour and the ship was steadied. Nevertheless UCD was unfortunate not to go in ahead at half time when Jason McCllenand’s drive beat Chambers but cannoned off the keeper’s right post.

UCD started the second period with the renewed energy of a team that had been reminded that they had unfinished business. When Georgie Kelly was thwarted with a tackle that winded the striker, visiting skipper Greg Sloggett seized on the loose ball to bring a full length save from Chambers. Daire O’Connor, Georgie Kelly and central defender Liam Scales all might have registered had they taken their chances but Liam Donnelly could have won the match for Wexford with his first touch after coming on as a seventy ninth minute substitute. Porter and Dean Kelly combined but Donnelly was ponderous and eventually shot wide.

Adam Hanlon had already left the scene, removed by his manager after gaining a yellow with a repetition of a tackle that referee Eoghan O’Shea had censured in the first half.   

Chambers raced through a ruck of players to punch clear, Kenny made another of his crunching block tackles to deny substitute Ben Hanrahan. By now A.J. Lehane had regained his composure to give an impressive second half display. There was no late siege on the Wexford goal and the game ended in mutual respect and a point a piece.

Wexford will travel to league leaders Waterford on Friday with more confidence than you would normally expect from a team at the foot of the table. UCD beat the Blues 3-2 last week and who knows what surprises Damian Locke will spring when his next combination of players enters the fray.

Attendance: 289

Wexford FC: Corey Chambers, Craig McCabe, Owen McCormack, Ross Kenny, A.J. Lehane, Dean Kelly (Shane Dunne, 88), Thomas Croke, Mikey Byrne, Eoin Porter, Danny Doyle (Liam Donnelly, 79), Adam Hanlon (Aaron O’Connor 65). Not used: Conor Dunne, Michael Walsh (GK).

UCD: Niall Corbet, Josh Collins, Maxim Kouogan, Liam Scales, Evan Osam, Dan Tobin (Simon Power, 65), Greg Sloggett, Timmy Molloy (Ben Hanrahan, 79), Jason McClelland, Daire O’Connor, Georgie Kelly. Not used: Sean Coyne, Conor Crowley, Rob Manley, Conor Kearns (GK), Cian Kavanagh.

Referee: Eoghan O’Shea.

After the match, we spoke to Liam Donnelly: 

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League of Ireland First Division

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8 Cobh Ramblers 27 -17 29
9 Wexford FC 27 -36 17
10 Athlone Town 27 -65 7

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2 Shelbourne LFC 21 51 52
3 Peamount United 21 55 45

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