Wexford Youths put another three points on the SSE Airtricity Women’s National League scoreboard in a very physical encounter with Athlone Town. Kylie Murphy’s second half penalty was enough to break the tie in a game that saw two yellow cards.
It was an awkward game in many ways, neither team coming out of it with any clear-cut chances. With both teams playing three centre-halves it was perhaps surprising that play remained so narrow for much of the game, neither team utilising their wing-backs.
Owing to the physicality of the game some interesting battles developing in the middle of the park. Aoibheann Clancy was dominant for Wexford showing great aggression on the ball and keeping the play moving with intelligent passing.
Youths dominated possession in the opening half but Athlone’s tight defending meant Wexford struggled to create chances. The only goal scoring opportunities Wexford saw were from distance. Edel Kennedy had a couple of long range efforts that weren’t powerful enough again to challenge Abbiegayle Ronayne in the Athlone goal.
Kennedy had the best chance of the half on the half-hour mark. Lauren Dwyer’s diagonal ball to Kylie Murphy was beautifully chested down for Kennedy but she couldn’t get her foot over the ball and the volley flew over the bar.
Athlone’s only real chance of the half came after 34 minutes when Emma Donohoe’s cross from the left caused the Wexford defence serious problems. Kiev Gray, failing to rise above her defenders, spilled the ball and presented Emily Corbet with the opportunity to put Athlone ahead. Corbet was too slow however and her strike was too weak to cause any real issues.
Tom Elmes made his first substitution of the game after 36 minutes. Orlaith Conlon, having picked up a knock to the face a few minutes earlier, was taken off in place of new signing Kim Flood who slotted in alongside Dwyer and Sinnott in Wexford’s back three.
Muireann Devaney’s physicality certainly uneased Wexford at times. A tackle on Flood high up the pitch nearly put Emily Corbet through but it was easily dealt with by the Wexford defence. A couple of minutes later, a yellow card acted as an official note of Devaney’s physicality.
The second half was dominated by Wexford. Ellen Molloy’s free kick on 48 minutes was met by the head of Ciara Rossiter. Ronayne spilled the ball which gave Athlone a heart in mouth moment but the Midlands side’s keeper was able to dive on the ball before Wexford snuffed out the chance.
Lauren Dwyer’s diagonal ball on 59 minutes found Ellen Molloy who, struggling under pressure, scrambled it out to Aisling Frawley. Frawley was looking for the far corner of the goal but there wasn’t enough behind it to trouble Ronayne.
The first red card of the game arrived five minutes later. Devaney, struggling for the ball with Lauren Dwyer, mistimed her sliding tackle and saw red for a second bookable offence.
The red card gave Wexford even more space on the pitch. Lynn-Marie Grant found a bit of joy down the right-hand side winning a corner. A short ball gave Ciara Rossiter the chance to strike on goal – her shot whizzing over the bar.
Wexford had a massive penalty shout after 72 minutes. Ellen Molloy appeared to be pulled down in the box but played was waved on. Only one of referee Oliver Moran’s controversial decisions of the day.
Wexford were pouring forward at every opportunity at this stage of the game. A fantastic run from the back from Lauren Dwyer allowed her to pull the ball back into the Athlone box but nobody was able to finish. Grant’s creativity added a lot to Wexford’s game once she came on.
The one and only goal of the game came after 80 minutes by way of a penalty. Kylie Murphy was taken down in the box after taking the ball beautifully on her chest. She slotted the ball home very confidently to put Youths 1-0 up.
Things went from bad to worse for Athlone as they registered a second red card on 84 minutes. Fiona Owens tripping up Ellen Molloy through on goal. Moran showed red for the last-player-back challenge.
Managers Tom Elmes and Tommy Hewitt appeared to exchange animated words on the pitch following the final whistle. It was a hard fought victory for Wexford Youths but Athlone will feel very hard done by and put the loss down to controversial refereeing decisions.
Wexford Youths: Ciamh Gray; Nicola Sinnott, Lauren Dwyer, Orlaith Conlon (Kim Flood 36’), Lynn Craven (Sinead Taylor 73’); Ciara Rossiter, Edel Kennedy (Lynn-Marie Grant 62’), Aoibheann Clancy, Aisling Frawley; Kylie Murphy (C), Ellen Molloy.
Subs not used: Maeve Williams (GK), Vanessa Ogbonna, Fiona Ryan, Kira Bates-Crosbie
Sent off: None
Athlone Town: Abbiegayle Ronayne; Róisín Molloy (Róisín Jacob 86’), Leah Brady, Kayleigh Shine, Aoife Haran (Ava Dolan 84’), Emma Donohoe; Muireann Devaney, Fiona Owens, Kayla Brady (Melissa O’Kane 86’), Laurie Ryan (Jessica Hennessy 84’); Emily Corbet (Kellie Brennan 45’)
Subs not used: Ciara Glackin (GK), Karley Leavy.
Booked: Devaney 47’
Sent off: Devaney 64’, Owens 84’
Referee: Oliver Moran
ExtraTime.com Player of the Match: Aoibheann Clancy (Wexford Youths)