Waterford United 3; Waterford Junior League 0
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Stephen Henderson and his new-look Blues recorded their second pre-season victory on Friday night last in Ben Wadding Park. This game was in doubt all week due to the frost and rain which made the playing surface extremely sticky, but in fairness to the Bohemians club they pulled out all the stops to make the venue playable.
A fine crowd turned up to get their first view of the Waterford United team and I suppose in some respects they went home with mixed opinions. The new manager has a somewhat unusual system and perhaps it will take some time for regular supporters to get used to his way of fielding a team.
In this game, just as they did the previous week against Cork City, they lined out with a 4-144-1 formation. Seamus Long, Declan Woodgate, Graham Cummins and Kevin Murray were the back four, with Kenny Browne playing just in front of them. John Kearney, Paul McCarthy, Alan Carey and Kevin Waters were the midfielders and David Grincell played as a lone striker.
Grincell was the only change from the team which won 1-0 in Bishopstown the previous week. He replaced Willie John Kiely.
The local selection was not the one their manager Paul Elliott had in mind when he selected his team for this contest which was played to raise funds for the Waterford Branch of the Irish Kidney Association. He had to plan without Leigh Quilty of Tramore and Anthony O’Donnell of Carrick United as those clubs had a top-of-the-table clash the following night, but nevertheless the local Junior League side more than held their own against the League of Ireland outfit.
Michael Caulfield of Southend United was extremely impressive and he was without doubt one of the talking points of the night. Willie John Kiely, who replaced the injured Grincell at half-time, shone for the Blues during the second 45 minutes and he looked sharp and fit, something that was not always the case last season.
Overall this was a very useful outing for Waterford and this weekend they hope to play Drogheda United, if Alan Matthews has assembled a team by then. Another big topic for debate on Friday last was the fact that home games this season at the RSC will be played on Saturday nights with a 7pm kick-off time. Ever since the club began to play at the RSC home games have been played on Friday nights or Sunday mornings, but the management committee are going to try this idea for the coming season to see if it will improve attendances.
Stephen Henderson was happy enough with what had unfolded when he spoke after the match. “I thought we did work hard tonight against a side who gave their all. The pitch was sticky but we must be very grateful to Bohemians for getting the game on. This was only our second game and really all we have been doing is running and so on because of the terrible weather.
“The lads will have to get used to the system we are going to play and at times they did just that here tonight. All of them are good players but we need games like this to come to grips with the way we will play. At times they did very well and they sort of grew into the game. We did pick up a few injuries.
“David Grincell and Graham Cummins are young players and they must learn not to try and play on when they get hurt. All of that will come with experience. Yeah, I am happy enough with all of them and we are all looking forward to working very hard between now and the start of the season,” he said.
Michael Devine played his first game for the Blues since 1999 in Waterford and he was equally up-beat about the future. “Stephen Henderson is well thought of in the game and he is a man I admire greatly. When I came back from England as a cocky young player he was a top class goalkeeper with Cobh Ramblers and he thought me a lot. I had success at Cork City but for the past two seasons the entire thing became a right old mess and I did not have to think hard about returning to Waterford.
“When he asked me to sign I didn’t have to think twice about the offer. I played under Tommy Lynch, Mike Flanagan and Paul Power when I was here and now we have a really good manager again. I believe we can push for promotion and that is another reason why I have returned. There are some very good players in this squad and I have to say I am really loving every minute of it so far.”
As for the action, Gavin Crotty shot over the bar with a free kick after 8 minutes. Twelve minutes later Kevin Waters went close for Waterford United with a well-taken free kick from the right. The ball went narrowly wide of the far post.
Lovely play between Kevin Roche and Lee Douglas almost saw the junior selection take the lead on 22 minutes but no-one was forward enough to finish off the move. Ian O’Regan had a header saved by Michael Devine on the half-hour mark following a fine cross from Gavin Phelan. David Grincell then tested the St Saviour’s goalkeeper with a crisp low shot on 41 minutes.
It looked as if the teams would go in level at half-time but the junior XI conceded a penalty on 44 minutes. Kevin Waters played the ball over from the left and central defender Paul Cleary pushed David Grincell. Kevin Waters took the spot-kick and he gave Graham Cleary no chance whatsoever.
The second goal also came from the penalty spot. Michael Caulfield was adjudged to have fouled Paul McCarthy and this time Gary Dunphy sent the goalkeeper the wrong way.
Michael Caulfield was dreadfully unlucky not to score at the other end five minutes later when he saw a powerful header come crashing back off Devine’s crossbar. Waterford United made it 3-0 with seven minutes remaining with Willie John Kiely shooting to the roof of the net following a free kick taken by Joe Mulcahy. David Underwood who had replaced Graham Cleary on 75 minutes produced fine saves from Willie John Kiely and Joe Mulcahy.
Waterford United: Michael Devine (Kevin Burns 74), Seamus Long, Graham Cummins (Kieran Fitzgerald, 52) Kevin Murray, Declan Woodgate, Alan Carey (Gary Dunphy, h-t) Paul McCarthy (Joe Mulcahy, 66) John Kearney, Kenny Browne, Kevin Waters (Paul Carey, 77) David Grincell (Willie John Kiely, h-t).
Waterford Junior League: Graham Cleary (St Saviours), David Underwood (DLS, 75) Ian O’Regan (Hibs), David Griffin (St Pauls, 74), Mitchel Casey (Crystal), Paul Cleary (Johnville), Lee Russell (Southend), Gary Kelly (Johnville), Pascal Keane (Villa, 88), Michael Caulfield (Southend), Gavin Crotty (Dungarvan), Gavin Phelan (Johnville), Kevin Roche(Ferrybank), Stephen McLawrence (St Pauls, 60), Daniel O’Sullivan (Southend), Ross Douglas (Villa, 17)
Referee: Jim McKell (Tipperary).