Kildare County 1; Waterford United 2

Following three defeats on the trot and a scoreless draw, Waterford United returned to winning form on Friday night last at a freezing Station Road ground in Newbridge.

It was not pretty and it was not fun to watch but nevertheless it was good to see the Blues take all three points which keeps them in the hunt for the league title, and of course promotion. The previous evening, Dundalk, the side which defeated Waterford to go five points clear a week earlier, lost at home to Limerick and that result gave Gareth Cronin’s men an ideal opportunity to make up ground on the Lillywhites.

Shelbourne and Sporting Fingal, the other teams in contention for the championship, were due to play in Tolka Park on Friday night last but not for the first time the floodlights at the old Dublin venue failed and as a result the game was abandoned early on, an outcome that threw the top-of-the-table positions into the air. That game was expected to be eventually played early this week.

Shelbourne are of course the visitors to the RSC this Friday, a game which will keep Waterford’s season going to the last day of the season or indeed bring the curtain down on their campaign for 2008. Going on this performance the local outfit will have to improve greatly if they wish to beat the Dubliners for the first time this season.

To make matters worse central defender David Breen suffered a broken wrist early in the second half it would appear that his season is now over.

It was Waterford’s 4th victory over Kildare County this season and it was also their 4th hard fought win against them. Playing their first game under the guidance of their new manager Tony Cousins, they made the Blues work for everything they got. The soft underfoot conditions made like difficult for all of the players on view and it would be fair to say it was not a game that will live in the memory for to long.

Sullivan strikes

The Waterford team showed four changes from the team which lost 1-0 to Dundalk seven days previously. John Hayes (injured) Paul McCarthy and Gary Dunphy (dropped) and Willie John Kiely (suspended) made way for Robbie Clarke, Luke Fitzpatrick, Kenny Browne and Vinny Sullivan. The team lined out in a 4-4-2 formation compared to the 4-3-3 used against Dundalk.

Waterford had a very good chance to score after five minutes when Vinny Sullivan knocked the ball forward to David Grincell with his head but the latter was unable to control the ball with the goal at his mercy.

A minute later Grincell found space out on the left but again he was not able to control the ball with Vinny Sullivan calling for a pass as he was in a very good position. Kildare very nearly took the lead on 12 minutes through Cieran Kilduff who let fly from 12 yards but Packie Holden produced a fine save by diving to his left.

Waterford went in front in fine style four minutes later. Kenny Browne played the ball forward from just outside his own penalty area. His long delivery caught out the Kildare defenders and after taking one touch, Vinny Sullivan placed the ball past the advancing goalkeeper Austin O’Neill from deep inside the penalty area.

Holden was called back into action once again after 21 minutes. Barry Slattery sent over a good cross from the right on to the head of Cieran Kilduff who powered in a header but somehow Holden managed to claw the ball away in mid-air.

The Blues goalkeeper knew nothing about Kildare’s next attack on 40 minutes. Craig Mooney out on the right cracked in a peach of a shot which beat Holden but the ball came crashing back off the crossbar. Just before the half-time whistle Kildare ‘keeper Austin O’Neill saved well from Vinny Sullivan who had made contact with a pass from Luke Fitzpatrick.

14th penalty

Gareth Cronin had to change his team around five minutes into the second half when David Breen suffered his bad wrist injury after making a tackle on Cieran Kilduff. The Blues defender picked up a yellow card for his tackle but that was the last of his worries because he had to travel back to the Waterford Regional Hospital with his arm in a sling.

Luke Fitzpatrick went back to partner Kenny Browne in defence and Paul McCarthy came on to play on the right side of midfield. Five minutes after Breen’s departure a Dave Warren corner from the left was met by Kevin Waters but his strong header was well held by Austin O’Neill. Vinny Sullivan made the goalkeeper work again shortly afterwards.

It appeared as if the visitors had secured all three points when they increased their advantage on 67 minutes. Kevin Waters pinged in a good corner kick from the right which the home defence failed to deal with; the ball fell to Dave Warren who shot at goal but it hit central defender David O’Connell but when he got a second chance, Warren crashed the ball to the roof of the net from 15 yards.

Waterford conceded their 14th penalty of the current campaign when Luke Fitzpatrick fouled Kilduff on 79 minutes. Colin Fortune took the spot-kick which Pakie Holden saved, but after a couple of Waterford defenders failed to clear the lose ball, Kilduff managed to tuck the ball to the net from a difficult angle from the left.

That goal set up a very nervous final eleven minutes plus three added minutes for the Waterford players and supporters. In the dying seconds the Kildare goalkeeper came forward to take a free kick 40 yards from the Waterford goal. The ball bounced around on the edge of the penalty area and Kilduff was a litte unlucky to see his shot go inches wide of Holden’s left upright.

Kildare County: Austin O’Neill, Paul Donnelly, Owen Powderly, Colin Murray, David O’Connell, Barry Slattery, Craig Mooney, Colin Fortune, Cieran Kilduff, Philip Hughes, Trevor Bowers. Subs: Colin Osbourne for Mooney (63 mins), Owen Kavanagh for Slattery (69 mins), Ger Robinson for Hughes (71 mins).

Waterford United: Packie Holden, Stephen Quigley, Robbie Clarke, David Breen, Kenny Browne, Dave Warren, Kieran Fitzgerald, Luke Fitzpatrick, Vinny Sullivan, David Grincell, Kevin Waters. Subs: Paul McCarthy for Breen (50 mins), Karl Bermingham for Grincell (84 mins).

Referee: Darren Coombes (Dublin).