If ever there was proof needed that optimists should always be encouraged then this result at the RSC on Friday night last underlines the point because, to be honest, the Blues scarcely deserved a draw from this battle let alone a win. But, in football, as long as you have a few seconds to swing a leg or head a ball there is always hope and United joyously did just that snatching an unlikely victory in the 95th. minute.
That is not to say that the points are not most welcome and it is to the players’ credit that they withstood such an onslaught from Dundalk for so long without dropping their heads. They still had the guts and hunger to pull the game out of the hat on a beautiful, sunny night when the old wags from Kilcohan Park might have said ‘the Holy Ghost was on their crossbar’.
The victory means that third placed United are now only one point behind second-placed Dundalk and just three points behind the leaders Shelbourne who were beaten 2-0 by Longford Town on Saturday night.
This was a comedy or errors as far as Dundalk were concerned because the County Louth club should have had the points wrapped up by half time and, in particular, Robert Martin should have scored a hat-trick, at least.
But United, on the back foot for most of the game, stole the points at the last gasp when Luke Fitzpatrick popped up at the back post to head home a Dave Warren corner that had been conceded from a Kevin Waters’ free from the edge of the penalty area. Substitute John Flanagan received a red card for the foul on the inrushing David Grincell that appeared to many to have been committed inside the area.Midfield captured
There was little between the sides for the first 15 minutes with United’s Vinnie Sullivan and Dundalk’s Trevor Vaughan exchanging shots on goal but to no avail. Then the visitors took over completely, captured the midfield and launched an avalanche of attacks on the Blues’ goal.
Just on the half-hour, Kenny Browne took a rocket-like shot from David Cassidy off the line with goalkeeper Packie Holden beaten. It was an excellent flowing move from the middle of the pitch that also involved David O’Connor and Shane Grimes.
Three minutes later, Martin shot weakly wide of the upright and, minutes later, he was put clean through again by O’Connor but, with all the time in the world, he ballooned the ball wide of the near upright from close range.
In the ten minutes before half-time, Vaughan, Martin and Cassidy all got on the end of attacking moves in front of goal but only Cassidy found the target forcing a good save out of Holden.
In the second half, Dundalk more or less took up where they left off and, on 54 minutes, both Cassidy and Martin saw fierce, goal-bound shots ricochet off the bodies of under pressure defenders. Martin again steered the ball wide from 15 yards on 65 minutes.
Despite Dundalk’s almost total dominance, United might have snatched the lead on 75 minutes. Sullivan was taken down on the edge of the penalty area and Waters’ shot curled around the wall and zipped inches wide of the far upright.
Waterford United: Packie Holden, Kieran Fitzgerald, Robbie Clarke, David Breen, Kenny Browne, Dave Warren, Gary Dunphy (Stephen Quigley, 69 minutes), Kevin Waters, Vinnie Sullivan, Willie John Kiely (David Grincell, 62 minutes), Michael Foley (Luke Fitzpatrick, 57 minutes). Substitutes not used: John Hayes, Ben Spicer.
Dundalk FC: Aaron Shanahan, Paul Marney, Shane Grimes, Ian Ryan (John Flanagan, 59 minutes), Ben Whelehan, Paul Shiels, Jamie Duffy, David Cassidy, Trevor Vaughan, Robert Martin (Paul Smyth, 78 minutes), David O’Connor (Paul Crowley, 83 minutes). Substitutes not used: Tiernan Mulvenna, Morgan Cranley.
Referee: Eddie McNally, Cork.