Tramore 0; Waterford Crystal 1
Tramore, who have been setting the pace at the top of the league table since September, lost for the first time last Thursday when they crashed at home to Waterford Crystal.
The result moved Crystal into clear second place, five points behind Tramore but with a game in hand. The only loss suffered by the Seasiders this season was in the FAI Junior Cup, and Crystal were the winners then too.
The reigning champions fully deserved their win against the league leaders who never really fired at all. Crystal goalkeeper Derek Hearne had only one save of note to make.
This result also brings Carrick United back into the picture and now we have a three-team championship race. With games running out, all is set for a thrilling few weeks.
Playing their 14th league game of the season, Tramore started brightly enough with Micheal Downey picking out Robbie Phelan but the latter shot high over the crossbar from just inside the penalty area. Jimmy Barden headed the ball off Crystal’s line on 15 minutes following a Downey left-wing cross with Robbie Phelan waiting to pounce.
The only goal of the game arrived on 19 minutes. Crystal were awarded a free kick 35 yards from goal out on the left flank, which Robbie Butler whipped in with pace and the ball flew all the way past the unsighted Tramore goalkeeper AJ Murray.
Tramore tried to fight back without any great deal of success. Martin Whelan met a Leigh Quilty corner kick from the right on 28 minutes but headed high over the crossbar.
Robbie Butler was dreadfully unlucky not to score his second goal shortly afterwards when he fired in an angled shot from the right which went inches wide. More Crystal pressure followed and Murray had to be alert to save from Paul Quilty after good work by Dean Rochford.
Tramore did have a chance just before the interval when Stephen O’Shea came forward from defence to feed Sean Browne but he stabbed the ball over the crossbar from a decent position.
Michael Kavanagh found Quilty early in the second half but his usual composure was missing and he shot well wide. Five minutes later Crystal striker Paul Quilty lost control of the ball as he raced at goal.
The only real save that Derek Hearne had to make came in the 67th minute. Stephen Grant did superbly well to find Downey who let rip with a low angled effort from the right only but Hearne tipped the ball around the upright.
Tramore were very lucky not to fall further behind on 71 minutes when Paul Quilty crashed a header off the woodwork from a Dean Rochford corner. The last chance of the game also fell to Quilty. This time he met a right-wing cross from Martin Tynan but headed narrowly wide.
At this stage, Tramore were a spent force and now they will hope to get back to winning ways against Bohemians this Wednesday evening.
Tramore: AJ Murray, Michael Kavanagh, Stephen O’Shea, Craig Maher, Martin Whelan, Stephen Grant, Francis Rockett, Sean Browne, Micheal Downey, Leigh Quilty, Robbie Phelan. Sub: Zach Shanahan for Kavanagh (64 mins).
Waterford Crystal: Derek Hearne, Mitchel Casey, Jimmy Barden, Pat Dobbyn, Conor Fell, Dean Rochford, Martin Tynan, Keith Sheridan, Paul Quilty, Diarmuid Delehunty, Robbie Butler. Sub: Joe Watson for Delehunty (64 mins)
Referee: Jimmy McGrath.