Waterford United 3; Kildare County 2
Managers always dislike top versus bottom encounters as, often, the lower placed team plays way above its potential to cause an upset. And so it was at the RSC on Friday night last. Bottom club Kildare County ignored the form-book and, as the hour mark approached, they were within sight of their first win of the campaign.
But, in the end, an often lethargic Waterford United shook themselves into action and twice came from behind with goals from Kenny Browne before stealing the points with an injury time goal scored by Vinnie Sullivan. The victory puts United into clear second place in the table, three points behind the leaders Dundalk.
On a bitterly cold night, a total of only 450 fans turned out to brave the elements but they were eventually rewarded with a five-goal thriller and a home victory. Before the game, there was a minute’s silence in memory of the late Harry Hale and James Moran. See elsewhere in this section for tribute to Harry Hale.
Gareth Cronin made three changes to the side that started against Dundalk at Oriel Park the previous week with Stephen Quigley, Dave Warren and Paul McCarthy returning from illness and injury and Karl Berminghan from suspension. Returned to the bench were Kieran Fitzgerald, Luke Fitzpatrick, Kevin Waters and Gary Dunphy.
Kildare opened the scoring on the half-hour when Paul Donnelly volleyed a powerful shot through a crowded goalmouth from 20 yards. The ball had been dangerously bobbing about the United area for what seemed like an age prior to Donnelly’s strike and should have been cleared by the hesitant defence.
United struggled for long periods but they finally clicked into gear and equalised on fifty-eight minutes when Browne directed a flashing header past goalkeeper Charlie Treacy from eight yards following a free by Michael Foley out on the right wing.
However, Kildare retained their shape and composure and regained the lead on 65 minutes when a superb ball from Colin Fortune split the United defence. Ciaran Kilduff stormed though to unleash a low, hard shot that was only parried by Packie Holden and the inrushing Cathal Brady stabbed the rebound into the net.
But the Blues rallied again and in an almost replica passage of play to his first goal, Browne headed the equaliser on 84 minutes. Barry Clancy fouled Joe Mulcahy out on the right wing and, again, Foley floated over the free and Browne rose to head firmly to the net.
A minute into injury time, Sullivan latched on to a beautifully weighted David Breen ball over the defence and, after taking it down on his chest, he calmly steered his shot into the net from close range.
Only two excellent saves from Holden prevented the visitors from going in front prior to their opening goal. On 13 minutes, Browne fouled Philip Gorman on the edge of the area and only a full stretch save by the goalkeeper kept Fortune’s curling drive from soaring into the top corner of the net.
Top class save
Five minutes later, Holden brought off another top class save to keep out John Broderick’s overhead kick from twelve yards. And, just on the stroke of half time, Gorman shaved the outside of United’s far upright with a powerful header following a Colin Fortune corner.
United’s best chance of the first half came after nine minutes when Willie John Kiely threaded the ball through to Sullivan but he blasted wide from sixteen yards. Three minutes into the second half, Kiely had a golden opportunity to equalise but he headed over the bar from six yards when it seemed easier to score following a Sullivan cross.
Waterford United: Packie Holden, Stephen Quigley, Robbie Clarke, David Breen, Kenny Brown, Dave Warren, Warren McCarthy (Gary Dunphy, 81 minutes), Karl Bermingham (Joe Mulcahy, 74 minutes), Vinnie Sullivan, Willie John Kiely, Michael Foley (Kevin Waters, 93 minutes). Subs not used: Kieran Fitzgerald, Luke Fitzpatrick.
Kildare County: Charlie Treacy, Colin Fortune, John Broderick (Kieran Harte, 56 minutes), Michael Roche, Barry Clancy (Barry Slattery, 88 minutes), Paul Donnelly, John Brophy, Alan Clarke, Philip Gorman, Cathal Brady, Ciaran Kilduff (Ger Robinson, 70 minutes). Subs s not used: Craig Mooney, Austin O’Neill.
Referee: Mark Gough, Limerick.