Cork City dropped two huge points in their bid to land the SSE Airtricity League first division title as they were held to a 1-1 draw by Wexford at Turner’s Cross on Friday night.
Kevin O’Connor’s first-half strike was cancelled out by Conor Davis at the beginning of the second period as City fall two points behind Galway in the title race despite extending their unbeaten run in all competitions to 15.
In front of a crowd of 2,834 - which included former City winger and current Republic of Ireland international Chiedozie Ogbene - it was Wexford who started the game the better side.
The visitors went close to taking the lead on seven minutes but after rising highest to meet a dangerous, in-swinging corner from Jack Doherty, midfielder Luca Lovic could only direct his header wide of the far post.
City’s last league outing was a hard-fought 2-1 away to Athlone Town a fortnight earlier, albeit they did defeat Treaty United 3-0 to reach the final of the Munster Senior Cup three days later with a much-changed side, so it took them time to regain their rhythm.
They ought to have edged in front in the 22nd minute but Ruairí Keating’s powerful header from Kevin O’Connor’s sensational cross from the left wing was brilliantly saved by the strong arm of goalkeeper Alex Moody at his bottom left corner.
But the reprieve only lasted a few seconds for Wexford as O’Connor opened City’s account when he drilled a superbly controlled half-volley into the far bottom right corner when the ball fell kindly to him inside the penalty area.
Wexford though, to their credit, responded well to that setback and it took an incredible goal line clearance from the alert Cian Coleman to prevent Jack Doherty from slotting in the equaliser after the number ten had rounded keeper David Harrington at the Shed End, the stand which had Joe Delaney’s name removed from it earlier in the day.
But it was City who finished the half the better side and they twice went close to doubling their lead as the break approached but Keating was again denied right in front of goal by an acrobatic stop from Moody before playmaker Barry Coffey curled wide of the far top right corner from 20 yards.
The Rebel Army would pay the price for squandering those glorious opportunities as just three minutes after the restart, Wexford made it 1-1 with former City striker Conor Davis coming back to haunt his former employers.
Centre-back Joe Manley’s header from a corner was blocked on its way towards goal but as mayhem ensued inside the six-yard box with City desperately trying to clear their lines, Davis remained cool and tucked the ball home from a couple of yards.
The forward wasn’t far away from completing a remarkable comeback just a matter of moments later but his curler from distance was saved by Harrington as it threatened to find his top right corner.
Colin Healy’s side’s best chance of retaking the lead came with 14 minutes remaining but after a swift break and a neat layoff from Cian Murphy, Coffey’s thunderous hit drifted just past the right post.
Wexford almost snatched a winner late on but Harrington got down well to turn Doherty’s low drive wide of his near post to maintain City’s unbeaten run.
David Harrington; Cian Coleman, Ally Gilchrist, Jonas Hakkinen; Cian Bargary, Aaron Bolger (Mark O’Mahony 88), Barry Coffey (Matt Srbely 77), Matt Healy, Kevin O’Connor (Kieran Coates 77); Cian Murphy, Ruairí Keating.
Alex Moody; Aidan Friel, Joe Manley, Paul Cleary (Adam Wells 84), Len O’Sullivan; Conor Crowley, Luka Lovic, Harry Groome; Jack Doherty (Conor Barry 91), Aaron Dobbs, Conor Davis (Thomas Considine 84).
Alan Patchell (Dublin).