Sporting Fingal 3; Waterford United 1

Waterford United dominated the opening 45 minutes of this game played at a wet and windy Morton Stadium on Friday night last but somehow trudged off, disbelievingly, three goals down.

For the second successive week, the Blues missed out on a chance to top Division One, with leaders Dundalk going down 3-1 to Wexford Youths. Come the end of the season, these slip-ups may prove enormously costly for Gareth Cronin’s side.

The Blues opened up very brightly and they attacked the home side with pace from the opening whistle, with Gary Dunphy warmed the hands of Fingal goalkeeper Brendan Clarke from 30 yards after four minutes.

Totally against the run of play, Sporting Fingal took the lead from the penalty spot. Kenny Browne, for some reason best known to himself, fouled Paul Byrne inside the box.

Referee Conor Fitzgerald awarded a free kick but his assistant informed him that the incident occurred inside the area, which was the right decision. Colm James duly sent Packie Holden sent the wrong way from the spot.

Three minutes later the entire Waterford defence went AWOL when Conan Byrne sent a long ball forward, truly hit in hope, but Byrne latched onto the ball and cracked the ball low past an angry Holden from 16 yards.

On the stroke of half-time Sporting Fingal almost beyond belief were three up and again it was down to dreadful defending.

Paul Byrne sent the ball over from the right to Fiachra McArdle who, with the freedom of Santry offered to him by Kieran Fitzgerald, hammered a low angled shot from the left past Holden.

The second half began brightly from a Waterford perspective. Substitute Paul McCarthy got past his fellow Tramore-born marker John Frost minutes before crossing to Dave Warren who powered a header to the roof of the net from six yards.

Suddenly there was hope once again for Waterford. On 51 minutes, Dave Warren sent Karl Bermingham clear inside the area but the Dubliner’s effort was cleared off the line by Brian Gannon.

Bermingham was again denied on the hour mark, when Fingal keeper Brendan Clarke brilliantly tipped his header over the crossbar.

Waterford remained firmly in the game and were handed a lifeline in the 78th minute when Vinny Sullivan was upended by Brian Gannon. But Willie John Kiely poorly struck the spot-kick into Clarke’s welcome grasp.

That miss put paid to any chance the Blues had of getting something from the game.

Ex-Blues skipper John Frost, who now plays for Fingal (on loan from St Pats) said his colleagues couldn’t believe that they were three up at half-time. It was one of those very strange nights.

Sporting Fingal: Brendan Clarke, Brian Gannon, John Frost, Philip Byrne, Barry Ferguson, Colm James, Conan Byrne, Fiachra McArdle, Daniel Corcoran, Paul Caffrey, Paul Byrne. Subs: Jim Crawford for Caffrey (80), Brian Kelly for McArdle (88) and Peter Hynes for Corcoran (90)

Waterford United: Packie Holden, Kieran Fitzgerald, Robbie Clarke, John Hayes, Kenny Browne, Dave Warren, Gary Dunphy, Luke Fitzpatrick, Vinny Sullivan, Karl Bermingham, Kevin Waters. Subs: Paul McCarthy for Fitzgerald, (HT) Willie John Kiely for Dunphy (62) and Joe Mulcahy for Hayes (80).

Referee: Conor Fitzgerald (Dublin).