Finn Harps 1; Waterford United 3

Waterford United turned in their best performance of the season on Saturday night last in Ballyfoey as they proved far too strong for a Finn Harps team who had to play second fiddle all through.

This was Waterford’s third away win of the season, following on from victories in Wexford and Athlone. It was an important victory due to the fact that UCD are leading the way with six wins from as many games. The students defeated Shelbourne 24 hours earlier and another club who are staying in touch, Sporting Fingal, had also won, so a full haul of points was simply a must for Stephen Henderson’s team in Donegal.

The Blues are now level on 13 points with Fingal, two behind Shelbourne and five adrift of UCD. This current Waterford team are improving with every outing and with Monaghan United their next opponents it would appear that a sustained promotion charge is very much on the cards.

The manager made one change from the team which defeated Longford Town the previous week. Gary Dunphy came in on the right side of midfield with David Grincell dropping to the bench. Both players were destined to play major roles in two of the goals scored.

The game was played on a dreadful pitch. Heavy rain all week had turned the playing surface into pudding-like arena and it was impossible for the players of both sides to control the ball properly. However the visiting players eventually got to grips with the terrible underfoot conditions and fully deserved their 4th victory of the season and their 3rd on the trot.

Harsh penalty

Waterford midfielder John Kearney cracked in a shot from 30 yards after five minutes but his effort went over the crossbar.

Finn Harps were awarded a penalty on 15 minutes by referee Neill Doyle from Dublin who adjudged that Kenny Browne had handled a shot by Conor Gethins. There was no doubt whatsoever that it was not a deliberate hand-ball but the official pointed to the spot immediately. Gethins took the penalty himself and he sent the Waterford goalkeeper, Michael Devine the wrong way.

The Blues equalised straight from the re-start. The ball was played out wide right to full-back Alan Carey who crossed deep into the penalty area. His delivery was met by Kevin Waters who shot hard at goal. It looked as if the Finn Harps goalkeeper Cieran Gallagher was going to save but a last ditch touch from Graham Cummins steered the ball to the back of the net from two yards.

On the half-hour mark, Gallagher came to the rescue of Finn Harps. Alan Carey got in another fine cross from the right which was met by the head of Graham Cummins but the home goalkeeper did well to get down quickly and smother the ball on his line.

Eight minutes later, Gallagher, who had just returned from Ireland U18 duty in Cyprus, saved superbly once again, this time from Kevin Waters who had controlled a pass from Gary Dunphy. Five minutes before the interval Dunphy and Kearney combined to set but Willie John Kiely but he snatched at the ball in front of goal and the chance was wasted.

Game sealed

Waterford were unlucky not to take the lead for the first time three minutes into the second half. Seamus Long played a free kick from inside the Waterford half of the field to the edge of the Finn Harps penalty area. Graham Cummins headed the ball over the advancing Gallagher but Shaun McGowan got back in the nick of time to head off the line.

Michael Devine did well on 54 minutes to tip away a free kick taken by Gethins from the left and Kenny Browne deflected away an effort from Christy Conaghan on 69 minutes.

But despite those chances, Waterford were on top and it came as no surprise when they took the lead on 73 minutes. Willie John Kiely took the ball from Seamus Long before playing a sublime pass to Gary Dunphy from the left side of the park. He controlled the ball, raced into the penalty area from the right and drilled a shot into the bottom corner of the net. It was a goal right out of the top drawer and one which was worth the long journey to see.

Waterford wrapped up the game three minutes from full-time. David Grincell, who had replaced Kiely six minutes earlier, was fouled 25 yards from goal by central defender Marc Mukendi. Waters took the free-kick and when Gallagher dropped the ball Cummins gleefully touched home his second goal of the game.

Finn Harps: Cieran Gallagher, Ian Rossiter, Corneiilus Gallagher, Johnny Havlin, Marc Mukendi, Shaun McGowan, Christy Conaghan, Ruari Harkin, Michael Funston, Conor Gethins, Gary Whoriskey. Subs: Cieran Coll for Corneilius Gallagher (h-t), David McDaid for Conaghan (77 mins), Patrick Bonner for Harkin (85 mins).

Waterford United: Michael Devine, Seamus Long, Alan Carey, Kevin Murray, Kenny Browne, Gary Dunphy, John Kearney, Paul McCarthy, Graham Cummins, Kevin Waters, Willie John Kiely. Subs: Joe Mulcahy for Dunphy (77 mins), David Grincell for Kiely (81 mins), Kieran Fitzgerald for McCarthy (86 mins).

Referee: Neil Doyle (Dublin).