Waterford United 0; Galway United 0
Waterford United had hoped to complete a season’s hat-trick of victories against Galway United at the RSC on Friday night last but, in the end, they had to settle for a share of the spoils. Galway’s precious point guarantees them survival in the top division next season barring a highly unlikely mathematical miracle in the last series of games this weekend.
Now unbeaten in five successive games, this last fixture on Friday night really is make or break for the Blues. So tight is the situation that any two of UCD, Bray Wanderers, Waterford United or Longford Town could end up being relegated.
If Waterford United, who have the worst goal difference of the four, win a point away to Shamrock Rovers then Longford Town will be automatically relegated, even if they win, and Waterford will enter the dreaded play-off.
But, if the Blues can defeat Rovers, the three points would take them above the play-off zone if Galway defeat UCD at home and if Bray Wanderers lose at home to Sligo Rovers. Even if Waterford win and either UCD or Bray scramble a point then the Blues will have to compete in the play-off because of their inferior goal difference.
However, if Waterford lose to Shamrock Rovers and if Longford Town defeat Derry City at home, Waterford will be automatically relegated on goal difference and Longford will go on to compete in the play-off.
Galway arrived at the RSC on Friday night last knowing that a point would all but make them safe and their tactics reflected that position. They packed their defence and bunched play whenever possible. The Blues started brightly forcing three throw-ins near the Galway corner-flag inside the first two minutes but they couldn’t find a way through a determined defence.
Both teams were desperate not to concede an early goal and it was the visitors who came closest to scoring in a tentative first half. On 37 minutes, John Lester crossed from the left to John Russell who touched on the ball to the inrushing Stephen O’Flynn but his powerful shot was booted off the line by the perfectly placed John Hayes.
Just on the quarter-hour, Derek O’Brien embarked on a jinking run that took him past three defenders into a prime scoring position but his shot lacked punch and Blues goalkeeper Dean Delaney saved comfortably. For the Blues, Vinnie Sullivan got a header on target in the 12th. minute and Paul McCarthy saw a shot sail over the bar in the 18th. minute but neither effort seriously troubled goalkeeper Gary Rogers.
Waterford came close to scoring in the first minute of the second half when Ray Scully crossed from the left but Rogers did well to save Sullivan’ s close-range shot. On the hour, only an excellent piece of back-tracking defending by Robbie Hedderman denied Russell a clear shot on the Blues goal and, eight minutes later, the home side was saved again thanks to an excellent tackle by Dave Mulcahy.
The always dangerous O’Brien had a golden opportunity to open the visitors’ account on 71 minutes when he was put clean through by Ciaran Foley but he ballooned the ball over the bar from 18 yards when, really, he should have carried it closer to goal.
The last goalmouth action of the game was created by Waterford but Mulcahy’s effort from a Cathal Lordan pull-back was smothered by the tightly packed defence.
Waterford United: Dean Delaney, Pat Flynn, Robbie Hedderman, John Hayes, David Breen, Dave Warren (Cathal Lordan, 81 minutes), Dave Mulcahy, Paul McCarthy, Vinnie Sullivan, Willie John Kiely (Alan Kearney, 61 minutes), Ray Scully (Karl Bermingham, 72 minutes). Substitutes not used: Kenny Browne, Packie Holden.
Galway United: Gary Rogers, Alan Keane, Wesley Charles, Reggie Nooitmeer, John Fitzgerald, John Lester, Ciaran Foley, John Russell, Stephen O’Flynn (Vinnie Faherty, 78 minutes), Alan Murphy, Derek O’Brien. Substitutes not used: Derek Lynn, David Cooke, Alan Gough, Philip Reilly.
Referee: Anthony Buttimer, Cork.