Vinnie Sullivan can’t get a word in as he battles for possession with Shelbourne’s Robbie Hedderman. photo: Jim O\'Sullivan

Vinnie Sullivan can’t get a word in as he battles for possession with Shelbourne’s Robbie Hedderman. photo: Jim O'Sullivan

Waterford United 1; Shelbourne 1

Though still unbeaten in the league at the RSC, Waterford United were unable to find a winning goal against leaders Shelbourne on Friday night last that would have taken them to the top of the table. They remain in joint second place with Dundalk just one point behind the Reds.

Played in atrocious conditions in an unrelenting torrential downpour, it was a credit to both sets of players that they produced such an entertaining and free-flowing battle in front of the 782 people who braved the elements and paid in at the gate. As United face into two successive away matches, the club’s hard-pressed officials were hoping that such an attractive pairing would have brought them some much needed cash but, when it rains, it pours!

The visitors came from behind, courtesy of a cruel own goal from Blues captain David Breen, to grab their share of the points. United were reduced to ten men near the end when Karl Bermingham was sent off and the hard working home defence had their backs to the wall as Shelbourne threw everything at them in the final ten minutes.

United opened the scoring on 19 minutes following a probing, cross-field free into the area from the right by Gary Dunphy. The Shelbourne captain Damien Brennan, under pressure from Bermingham, headed back towards his goalkeeper but Bermingham got a toe to the ball and it flew past the wrong-footed Dean Delaney.

The Shelbourne equaliser on 28 minutes was a cruel and bizarre own-goal from Breen. The ball had been bobbing about the area as the Blues were slow to clear their lines and, when David Freeman sent over a half-volley from the left, the unmarked defender executed a powerful header to his own net from six yards that any centre-forward would have been proud of!

Earlier in the half, Dave Warren went close for United after 10 minutes while the league’s top goal scorer, Anthony Flood, might well have put the visitors in front on 12 minutes.

Five minutes into the second half, Flood crashed the ball off the Waterford crossbar from a James Keddy corner from the right.

Under pressure

Just on the hour, the Blues put the visitors under pressure with two quick attacks. Kevin Waters crossed from the left into the path of the inrushing Bermingham but he couldn’t control the ball properly and his effort shaved the outside of the near upright.

Less than a minute later, Warren burst through from the middle of the field but his powerful, low shot went out for a corner off the butt of the left upright.

Nine minutes from time, Bermingham received a straight red card from referee Graham Kelly for a foul, from behind, on David McGill. Shelbourne used the dismissal as a rallying cry and launched a fierce blitz on the Waterford goal. On 83 minutes, Flood unleashed a fierce, 30-yard drive that seemed destined for the top corner of the Blues’ net but Packie Holden launched himself across the goal to produce the save of the night.

Two minutes from time, Flood saw his header beat Holden but go just wide of the far upright and, less than a minute later, Holden pulled off another excellent save, this time from Mark Rutherford.

In a move that may well become the subject of a sports-quiz question, the rain soaked Waterford changed their strip at half time going from all blue to all white. The equally drenched Shelbourne also changed but were able to maintain their red tops and white nicks.

Waterford United: Packie Holden, Stephen Quigley, Robbie Clarke, David Breen, Kenny Browne, Dave Warren, Kevin Waters, Gerry Dunphy (Willie John Kiely, 62 minutes), Vinnie Sullivan (David Grincell, 74 minutes), Karl Bermingham, Michael Foley (Luke Fitzpatrick, HT). Subs not used: John Hayes, Ben Spicer.

Scorer: Karl Bermingham, 19 mins

Shelbourne FC: Dean Delaney, Alan Murphy, Robbie Hedderman, Alan Byrne, Damien Brennan, Mark O’Brien, David McGill, James Chambers, Anthony Flood, David Freeman (Keith Dunne, 79 minutes), James Keddy (Mark Rutherford, 79 minutes). Subs not used: Philip Hughes, David McAllister, John McGuinness.

Scorer: David Breen OG, 28 mins

Referee: Graham Kelly, Cork