Wexford FC 3-0 Shamrock Rovers.
Quite simply the most disappointing forty-five minutes of football offered up by this team since they have come together. That’s the best way to describe the first half performance by the Hoops against Wexford at Ferrycarrig Park this afternoon. Let there be no doubt about it, the home team were full value for their 3-0 lead. The Hoops showed no signs of a team wanting to get back on track after their cup exit at the hands of Waterford last Tuesday. They were vulnerable right from the start and goalkeeper Gavin Bazunu, standing in for Kalvin Geraghty, who was carrying a hand injury from the game against the Blues, was a very busy guy in between the posts during that first half.
They conceded a goal in 22 seconds last Tuesday against Waterford and almost did exactly the same thing against Wexford except this time Adham Masood hit his chance wide. Within five minutes though the home team were tickled pink when Craig O’Reilly put them into the lead after sustained Wexford pressure. Rovers had done nothing up to then and had struggled to get out of their own half. They were stung momentarily by the goal and James Clarke had a chance at the other end which he put over the bar. Nine minutes had gone on the clock and Wexford almost went further ahead from a free kick in a move that eventually saw the ball come off the upright – what a relief for the Hoops. Dean Williams tested Wexford ‘keeper Colum Feeney in the 16th minute after Rovers had put their best spell of the game together and this was followed by some good play down the right from Jack Kelly who put a couple of good efforts into the box but his teammates didn’t manage to capitalise on these.
Seven minutes to go to half time and Wexford went further ahead when O’Reilly again finished well after the Hoops left a massive gap along the right. Two minutes after that Kelly shot wide for the Hoops but he had two teammates to his right and a knock on to them would have seemed a better option. Then came the killer blow on 45 minutes when Kyle Kennedy, making his return to the Wexford side after an absence of 12 weeks, sent in a cracking drive from Rovers’ right and the ball carried on past the diving Bazunu into the far corner of the net.
Rovers made one change at half time bringing on Emmanuel Odeniyi for James Clarke and this gave them more impetus up front. The home side, having evaluated the healthy situation they were in and knowing that Rovers were capable of scoring goals, decided to be less adventurous in the second half. There was a big improvement in their performance and they had a brilliant chance to claw one back in the 56th minute after the ‘keeper saved from Kenny Cunningham but Conor Behan couldn’t control his shot and sent it over. They had another good chance in the 59th minute when Williams had a point-blank shot saved by Feeney at the expense of a corner. Fresh legs were introduced midway through the half with winger Adam Murphy and Jordan Tallon being introduced. The big lad Odeniyi had been getting in behind the Wexford defence since coming on at half time but hadn’t been making as much a nuisance of himself as perhaps he could have. However, he proved in the later stages of the game just what he can do and got one back for Rovers in the 82nd minute after Darren Prendergast sent him in with a chance which he finished off after slipping to Feeney’s right.
Centre half Adam O’Connor took a free kick two minutes later which went just wide. Six minutes after that Williams made it 3-2 after he managed to get his foot to the ball in a skirmish close to the line. The comeback was well and truly on and even ‘keeper Bazunu came up for a corner at the death but time simply ran out for the Hoops.
Shamrock Rovers: 25. Gavin Bazunu; 14. Martins Olakanye, 2. Darren Prendergast, 5. Adam O’Connor, 3. Eric Abulu; 7. Jack Kelly, 6. Jack Priestly, 15. Conor Behan, 19. James Clarke, 11. Kenny Cunningham; 9. Dean Williams.
Substitutes: 10. Jordan Tallon (for Behan 71 mins), 16. Thomas Hannon, 17. Rhys Murphy (for Kelly 85 mins), 18. Adam Murphy (for Cunningham 68 mins), 20. Emmanuel Odeniyi (Clarke h.t.)
Match report and photos by Robert Goggins.