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Wexford FC 🎉 Today we're wishing a happy birthday to midfielder @luisdeano who turns 20 Have a great day Dean! 🎊 https://t.co/anoECR9Hpr

Brian de Salvo travelled to Tolka Park on Friday evening to see Wexford FC pick up just their third win of the season, coming from behind against a Shelbourne team who had been on a run of 5 games unbeaten.

Shelbourne, God bless 'em, still give goody bags to the hacks in the press box. Wexford responded by gifting their hosts a goal in the second minute. Visiting keeper Corey Chambers, not for the last time, put his body on the line after A.J. Lehane had left him exposed to the speedy James English. The keeper managed to parry the Shels striker’s initial effort as he collided with him but the ball broke loose and English prodded it home.

Wexford manager Damian Locke had reverted to a back three, making four changes from the eleven that faced Waterford. Andrew O’Connor and Conor Sutton, who had come on as substitutes in that game, started, with Mark Slater returning after injury and Thomas Croke from suspension. Dean Kelly and Danny Doyle dropped to the bench, Aaron O’Connor was not in the squad and, with skipper Craig McCabe on the injured list, Ross Kenny wore the armband and contributed another resilient performance.

On the first half showing Shels were worth more than their one goal interval lead. Owen Heary’s team play attractive football, English and Adam Evans are mobile strikers and the speed of Dylan Kavanagh and Dylan Grimes on the flanks made the visiting defence look leaden footed. The unfortunate Lehane was particularly susceptible and when he was booked after half an hour for bringing down Evans the tackle was not so much malicious as completely out of tempo with the play.

Keeper Chambers resumed where he had left off in Waterford, diving full length to save from Grimes after eighteen minutes and reclaiming the ball as the eager home strikers moved in. He raced from his penalty area to kick clear a dangerous through ball, twice foiled Evans, clutching the ball at close quarters, and made a brave point blank save at the feet of Kavanagh who had sped in on goal past Andrew O’Connor. He was not so fortunate after thirty seven minutes when another confrontation with English left both players in need of attention. Chambers must be counting his bruises this morning but the blow to his back that he suffered on this occasion looked, for the moment, that it might prevent him continuing.

In the other goal Dean Delany had also called for treatment but in his case there was no opponent involved when the Shels skipper pulled up having apparently pulled a groin muscle. He had had little enough authentic goalkeeping to do, although if Eoin Porter had connected with a header from a cross from the right he might have had to pick the ball out of his net. And he contributed to a dramatic first half finale when an Aaron Dobbs cross shot from the right glanced off the bar to the unmarked Porter a yard from goal. Porter’s connection lacked conviction and Delany stuck out a hand to parry the ball although the young Wexford midfielder made vigorous claims that the ball had crossed the line. Referee McGrath was about to book Porter for his protest after the official had ended the Shelbourne goalmouth crisis by awarding the home side a free kick but had second thoughts. Mr McGrath was brisk and efficient but has yet to learn the skills of man management; in all he flourished the yellow card seven times in a match which was entertaining but never malicious.

Shelbourne warmed up their reserve keeper during the interval and, for a moment, it looked as though we might see two rookies between the posts when the match resumed. That was not the case but it was the half time substitutions that changed the fortunes of the game.

At the interval whistle Wexford players, lead by captain Kenny, surrounded the referee to question his decision that Porter’s late shot had not crossed the line. But manager Locke and his coach Carl Grehan remained in the dugout area plotting tactical changes. This resulted in the removal of the hapless Lehane, a conversion to a back four and the inclusion of Shane Dunne from the bench. This transformed the Wexford second half performance. They were more resolute in defence and Dunne, combining with Croke, gave substance to the midfield.

By contrast the injury suffered late in the first half by Dylan Grimes had the opposite effect on the home side. Mr Heary put on a striker, Chris Lyons, to partner English, and moved Evans to the flank. With Lyons a peripheral figure, the dislocation of the Shels tactical formation reduced its potency.

The Wexford tactical change may have been the trigger but the players had to make it happen on the pitch. Two goals within five minutes just after the hour secured the points. The contribution of Aaron Dobbs to the equalizer should not be understated. It must be a very frustrating time for the young striker loaned from Shamrock Rovers. Despite his youth he leads the line with maturity, often as a lone striker, but the service to him in a team usually under pressure does not give him much opportunity to show what he can do.

But a defensive error gifted possession to Mark Slater who slipped the ball to Dobbs. He made enough space to take a shot on goal but, seeing Thomas Croke better placed to his right, sent him in to score with a precise low drive to the bottom corner of Delany’s net.

Now the crowd was getting behind Shels, looking for them to repossess the game. But the visitors’ second goal was well timed and well executed. First Slater had a shot blocked, then Porter but when the ball again rebounded to a Wexford player Mikey Byrne made no mistake. Not a bad night’s work for a player whose main responsibility is defensive.

Twenty minutes to go and when, just one minute into it, English left O’Connor trailing in his wake on the right, Ross Kenny laid down a marker with a thunderous tackle to halt his progress. Dobbs then collected a through ball and neatly slipped it past Delaney but was ruled offside.   Evans had a final chance to steal a point for Shels but a poor touch in front of goal saw it pass him by.

This was an impressive comprehensive performance by Wexford and takes the club to within one point of Athlone Town at the foot of the table.   Three more points against Longford at Ferrycarrig on Friday will put pressure on their Midlands rivals.

Attendance: 480

Shelbourne: Dean Delany, James Brown, Sean Byrne, Aidan Collins (Aaron Ashe, 84), Derek Prendergast, Mark Hughes, Adam Evans, David O'Leary, Dylan Kavanagh (Dayle Rooney, 67), Dylan Grimes (Chris Lyons, HT), James English. Not used: Jamie Quinn, Niall Lanigan, Aaron Molloy, James O'Brien.

Wexford FC: Corey Chambers, AJ Lehane (Shane Dunne, HT), Andrew O'Connor, Ross Kenny, Owen McCormack, Conor Sutton, Mark Slater, Thomas Croke (Danny Doyle, 64), Aaron Dobbs, Mikey Byrne, Eoin Porter. Not used: Conor Dunne, Dean Kelly, Michael Walsh

Referee: Damien McGraith

 

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