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Vincent’s thwarted at the death as relegation battle rumbles on

Seaford Rock United FC 2-2 St Vincent’s Hospital FC Saturday 9 March 2019: LSL Major 1 B

A brace of set-piece goals held Vincent’s to a disappointing 2-2 draw at Rockfield Park, representing a huge missed opportunity to climb away from the foot of the Leinster Senior 1B table.

After recovering from an early setback to take a 2-1 lead at the interval, Vincent’s will feel aggrieved to have dropped two crucial points, particularly after squandering a hatful of big chances at the death. This lively affair proved to be typical of the season so far, as sloppiness at the back proved equally as costly as profligacy in front of goal. Goals from Aidan McGrath and John Cosgrove set Vincent’s on their way, but Darren McMahon, Mark Dwyer and Jack Power will rue spurning a guilt-edged headed opportunity each in the final few minutes that could have snatched the full complement of points.

Conditions were pleasant for a noon kick-off; a minor sea breeze did little to disturb the football being played, while the sun shone on a grass pitch that generally maintained its integrity for the 90 minutes. That didn’t stop an early fraternal mix-up at the back for Vincent’s — centre-back Kieran Keane stretched to poke a loose ball back to Seán Keane but the brothers got their wires crossed, leaving the latter with no alternative but to use his hands to stop the goal-bound back-pass. The referee awarded an indirect free kick inside the penalty area, which Seaford Rock duly dispatched to take the lead.

In spite of the setback, Vincent’s began to play, and produced one of their brightest 45-minute displays of the season so far. Full-back McMahon and Cian Ward ran rampant on the left wing, creating several good opportunities with neat interplay and well-timed forays into the penalty area. Mark Dwyer led the midfield battle with aplomb, combining a battering-ram display of ball-winning with some cultured passes, allowing playmaker Cosgrove to create from his advanced midfield position.

Prolific number 9 McGrath had a good sighting of goal midway through the half when winning possession back deep in the Seaford Rock half, but opted to try his luck from range rather than bearing down on goal, enabling the home team’s goalkeeper to save with ease. However, the keeper was left rooted to the spot when McGrath next took aim, as he fired a left-footed snapshot into the bottom right corner from the edge of the area to level proceedings.

It was no more than Vincent’s deserved for wrestling back control of the tie. Keane recovered from the early blemish on his performance to form a formidable partnership with Colm Cosgrove, as both centre backs produced some excellent front-foot defending to keep their team in the ascendency. Despite this, Seaford Rock came into the game more at 1-1 as the intensity dropped, creating their best opportunity from open play with a dangerous whipped cross from the left that narrowly evaded onrushing attackers and drifted past Keane’s upright.

Just when it seemed as though the game would peter out to a halftime stalemate, Vincent’s were given the chance to take the lead from the penalty spot. The away side had just had a strong appeal for handball waved away before Gavin Kane, whose younger brother featured in the Seaford Rock starting line-up, was felled in the box when attacking an in-swinging free kick. John Cosgrove made no mistake from the spot, drilling the ball into the bottom left corner to give Vincent’s a deserved half-time advantage.

The second half proved to be a far scrappier affair. Seaford Rock had most of the possession and territory, but failed to create a meaningful opportunity until a series of fortunate bobbles allowed their centre forward a guilt-edged opening in the six-yard box. Goalkeeper Keane stood tall, however, and won the mental battle to deny the hosts an equaliser with an excellent save low to his right. However, the pressure eventually told when another set piece situation resulted in a cut-back from the byline that was duly converted from close range.

Vincent’s were bitterly disappointed to have ceded their advantage, but channelled the emotional impact of the equaliser into a period of sustained pressure inside the Seaford Rock half in the closing moments of the game. Excellent work down the left flank from substitute winger Power and the marauding McMahon led to a succession of corners. The home side’s goalkeeper produced two stunning saves, first repelling McMahon’s flying header from McGrath’s cross, before denying Dwyer with a strong wrist. Power then had the best chance of the lot, but his bullet near-post header flew just past the post as Seaford Rock survived. There was still time for the hosts to have one more chance — only a last-ditch tackle from Keane, expiating his early error, saved his team from further heartbreak, after a break from the halfway line.

The draw leaves Vincent’s with four games remaining to maintain their 1B status. With five teams bunched near the foot of the table, fixtures at home to Verona and CIE Ranch, and trips to Dunboyne and Beggsboro, will determine their fate.

Matchday squad

Starting XI: Seán Keane, James Clarke, Colm Cosgrove, Kieran Keane, Darren McMahon, Rory Durand, Mark Dwyer, John Cosgrove (C), Gavin Kane, Aidan McGrath, Cian Ward.

Substitutes: David Kennedy, Jack Power, Fionn Nally.

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